Category Archives: Family Matters

Staying Strong Against Cyberbullying

Staying Strong Against Cyberbullying

Written by: Joshua Blazen

What does bullying look like during the age of online school? Today, many children have access to social media accounts, cell phones, and the internet. These online platforms have created a new type of bully: the cyber-bully.            

What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is any teasing, intimidation, or harassment that occurs outside of school hours via social media or other technology. Roughly 10-40% of school-age students will experience cyberbullying at some point. The experience of cyberbullying is different for each student. Some cyberbullied children may be flooded with “spam” messages from bullies, some may have embarrassing rumors or photos spread by bullies through social media, and some may receive threatening or intimidating messages from bullies. Since cyberbullies can set up anonymous online accounts, cyberbullying victims do not always know who their bullies are. For this reason, cyberbullying can be more frequent and more difficult to avoid than traditional bullying. More time online with digital learning may increase both opportunities and impacts of cyberbullying. 

What are some warning signs of cyberbullying?
Here are some warning signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:
• They become upset, sad, or angry after spending time online or on their phone. This may be a reaction to experiencing some kind of digital harassment. It may lead to decreased interest in digital activity. Current requirements for increased online learning and online homework completion can unintentionally enhance a student’s discomfort. 
They become socially withdrawn. Cyberbullying can make a child more self-conscious, and this can make them avoid social situations where they might be judged. 
They go to great lengths to hide their screens when you enter the room. Children often feel shame about experiencing bullying and may try to hide it from their family members. 
They appear more down or sad than usual. This may include losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. If your child experiences a sudden downturn in mood without a clear cause, you may want to get some more information to see if cyberbullying could be the cause.
They suddenly want to avoid school. If a child who normally loves school suddenly starts dreading going to school, this could be a cause for concern. It may be that the child wants to avoid seeing their cyberbullies as much as possible. Some children may even use feeling sick as a reason to stay home or stay offline. They may refuse to turn on their camera during online learning. If this is the case, you may want to gather more information to see if your child is experiencing cyberbullying. 

How can I protect my child from cyberbullying?
• Make sure your child knows that you are ready to listen. If your child talks to you about being a victim of cyberbullying, be supportive and non-judgmental. Some children feel like it is their fault for experiencing bullying and they can feel ashamed to tell their parents for this reason. Make sure your child knows that they are loved and appreciated no matter what.  
Talk to your child’s teacher if you believe your child is experiencing cyberbullying. Teachers don’t always know when cyberbullying is happening, so it may be helpful to bring it to their attention. Ask if the teacher would consider talking to the class about cyberbullying in a way that doesn’t specifically identify or target your child as a victim. Your child’s teacher may even have a specific anti-bullying curriculum in mind! 
Help your child come up with some strategies to avoid cyberbullies. You may want to help your child limit their technology and social media time by agreeing on a technology-use schedule. An online schedule can reduce the amount of time they are exposed to cyberbullying. You could create a tech space in the house that is more public so your child feels as though you are part of the online experience and can intervene on their behalf. Additionally, you may want to show your child how to block cyberbullies’ phone numbers and social media accounts.

What should I do if my child is cyberbullying others?
• Help your child come up with more acceptable ways to solve conflicts. Children often resort to teasing or bullying to get revenge. Make sure that your child knows they can come to you for advice when they have disputes with others. 
Gather more information. Your child’s teacher may be able to shed some light on any conflicts your child has with other children. Talk to your child to learn more about why they are bullying others. Some children may bully others to cope with stress or other negative feelings. 
Talk with your child about feelings. Help your child understand the way that bullying makes others feel. Help your child come up with acceptable ways to express their feelings. 

Resources
For more resources for caregivers, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center website: https://cyberbullying.org/resources/parents

More recommendations for caregivers from ConnectSafely:https://www.connectsafely.org/cyberbullying/

To report chronic or severe instances of cyberbullying and harassment:https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/who-to-call


Tips for caregivers during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order

Tips for caregivers during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order

Written by: Jenn Vanetten

As a parent or caregiver during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Washington State mandate, you may be confronting new challenges at home. You may be helping your child learn their math lessons, keeping them entertained with creative activities and helping them cope with the sudden changes in routine. Luckily, educators and professionals around the U.S. have been sharing free tools, activities and information to help! 

Here are a few situations that you may relate to and some tips and resources. 

Situation 1: Helping Children Understand and Rest
Arianna’s 5th birthday is next week. You began planning her birthday party before the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. She was excited about having her friends and family invited over for a party that included a bouncy house in the front yard. These plans have now been canceled and Arianna cries every day because she won’t have her party or get to see her friends and family. 

How do you help your child understand and overcome difficult feelings during this time?
Make sure you recognize and validate any negative feelings about the situation. Let your child know that it is okay to be sad. Then, focus on the positives. For example, you get to spend more time as a family. Try to make more time for fun at home. If it’s fun for your child, it is probably going to be more fun for you!

Check out these resources for tips on talking to your child about the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and help them cope with changes:
National Association of School Psychologists on helping kids cope with changes
National Public Radio on using comics with older children
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on stress and coping
Child Mind Institute on talking to kids

Situation 2: Setting a Schedule & Helping Children Learn
Jasmine and Juan both work outside the home, but now they both are working from home. They have three children, Arial (age 3), Brandon (age 5) and Adrian (age 10). Arial usually attends childcare, Brandon normally attends preschool and Adrian is in elementary school. Adrian’s classes are now online, while Brandon and Arial are not engaged in school.  

How do you and your partner balance two working schedules, monitor online classes and help all children stay engaged during the day?
Structure is key. A written daily schedule will provide your children with a sense of comfort and control and will allow you and your partner to “split shifts” (and get some work done). Some families may want to create their schedules day-by-day while others may prefer to stick to one daily routine. Which is the right way? Do what works best for you and your family! Just remember to be flexible and to collaborate with your kids during this process—even if it means scheduling an hour for “kids’ choice.”

Check out these links for more tips on creating a daily schedule with your family:
How long should learning lessons be for children in different grades
8 tips on working at home with children

Situation 3: Keeping Children Entertained and Active
As a single parent, you stay at home with your 4-year old daughter and 7-year old son. After several weeks of staying at home, they have played every game in the house at least 20 times and have become tired of their toys. The easiest solution for keeping them busy is television and electronic devices, but you feel guilty about that

How do you keep your children engaged and active?
Try to make time for a fun family activity at least once a day! It is most important to ask your children what they want to do. Encourage them to be creative with their ideas. This can be a great opportunity to help them expand their creative minds. The internet can also be a great tool for finding new activities:
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a really cool website for access to age-appropriate activities for learning about science, math, arts, literacy, character, social skills and emotions
PBS will e-mail you daily suggestions for games and activities for free
The Seattle Times has ideas for easy activities with materials that are probably already in your house
Imagine has a YouTube page with art, science, music and math activities along with guest author and artist videos. Subscribe to be alerted to new posts. 

Check out these resources if you want more information about the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and how to keep you and your family healthy:
CDC resources and guidelines
Public Health recommendations 
Washington State Department of Health resources and recommendations for parents and caretakers

Building Resiliency in Children

Building Resiliency in Children

Written by: Jenn Vanetten

Children may experience obstacles and stressors that are difficult to overcome. Test failure, bullying, loss or incarceration of a friend or family member or divorcing parents may be a few of the hardships that they could face. Although such adverse events are a negative life experience, they also provide opportunities for children to build the skills – or resiliency – they will need to bounce back from hard times. 

What is Resiliency
Resiliency develops in individuals as they learn to work through challenges and cope with life stress in a healthy manner; it is the ability to recover after times of difficult adjustment, painful losses or failures. Resilience is not a trait that individuals either do or do not have. It develops through experience. 

What Does Resiliency in Children Look Like?
• Children that are more resilient may persist to improve at an art or sport, while less resilient children may give up an activity when it is not going well.
More resilient children may earn a low grade on a test and work harder to understand the content while less resilient children may give up on learning the content. 
More resilient children may handle the loss of a loved one by grieving with family members, whereas less resilient children may isolate themselves and fall into deep sadness. 

Why is Resiliency Important?
Helping a child to develop resiliency earlier in their development will help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. 

Children with greater resiliency are more likely to:
• Succeed academically 
• Develop and maintain healthy relationships with peers and family
• Identify activities that bring enjoyment
• Overcome feelings of frustration and sadness

How can Adults Foster Resiliency in Children?
• Allow room for mistakes 
When a child is struggling to complete a task, it may seem easier to do it for them. Instead, let them attempt to do it on their own and praise their efforts rather than the completion of the task. This will help them to focus on the positive elements of difficult experiences. 
• Encourage independence
When a child falls down, make sure they are okay and then encourage them to pick themselves up. Soothe them if needed. Independence enhances a child’s confidence in their ability to overcome difficult experiences.  
• Show gratitude 
Consistently expressing emotions such as love and gratitude can help children to develop positive feelings toward others and life experiences. Children should be praised more often than they are criticized. 
• Express all emotions 
It is essential for children to learn how to label and express all emotions so they are better able to communicate how they feel in difficult times. It may be helpful to explain your feelings verbally to your child as well as your process for recovering emotionally.  
• Model a healthy lifestyle
Healthy eating habits, regular exercise and a good sleep routine all help fuel the body for being resilient in difficult times. Help children to develop healthy habits! 

For more ideas on how to foster resilience in children:
The Seven Ingredients of Resilience: Information for Parents
https://bit.ly/2xnjb1F