Category Archives: Health & Wellness

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They become socially withdrawn.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. 

For more resources for caregivers, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center website:

More recommendations for caregivers from ConnectSafely:

To report chronic or severe instances of cyberbullying and harassment:

Tantrums – What do they mean?

Tantrums – What do they mean?

Written by: Joshua Blazen

If you know a child, you have probably witnessed a tantrum. You’re not alone! Most children aged 18- to 48 months have tantrums. Many toddlers will have at least one tantrum per day. 

What do tantrums mean?
During a tantrum, some children will lay on the ground and cry, some children will throw objects and scream, and some children may even hold their breath. While each tantrum looks different, the reason for a tantrum is usually the same. Young children use tantrums to communicate when they don’t have the language skills to express themselves. Here are some of the most common causes for tantrums:
To get something: Young children may use tantrums to access something they want, like treats, attention, more time with a fun toy, or more time with a fun person or activity.
To avoid something: Young children quickly learn that they can avoid an unpleasant activity, like bedtime or a time-out, with a tantrum.
To express feelings: Through a tantrum, your child may be telling you that they are feeling frustrated or disappointed. It can be emotional when an enjoyable experience ends, and your child may use a tantrum to tell you that.
To express needs: For children who don’t have a lot of spoken or signed words, tantrums are the best way to let adults know that they are tired or hungry.

What can I do about tantrums?
What DO I do?
• Keep a consistent schedule. A predictable routine leads to less surprise disappointments for a child. For example, if clean-up time happens at about the same time every day, your child will be less surprised when it is time to put their toys away for naptime. 
• Look for triggers. Pay attention to the times of day and activities that seem to relate to your child’s tantrums. You may be able to avoid some of these triggers, like walking down the toy aisle at the store or driving past the candy store on the way home. Some triggers, like bedtime and brushing teeth, can’t be avoided. Try scheduling triggers that can’t be avoided at the same time every day so the child can predict when they happen. Give your child warnings and consider doing some kind of transition activity (reading a book or singing a song) before these triggers happen.
• Ignore tantrums. When tantrums do happen, stay calm and ignore them as long as your child is safe. Let your child know that you will talk to them once they are calm, and then don’t make eye contact with them or talk to them again. Try to keep occupied – you don’t want to make it seem like you’re sitting around waiting for the tantrum to be over.
• Reward your child when they don’t have a tantrum. Reward your child with attention and praise when they express themselves calmly instead of with a tantrum. Reward them if they make it through a trigger activity without having a tantrum. Teach them how to express themselves with words, and then reward them with praise and attention for using their words. When your child does have a tantrum, reward them with attention once the tantrum is over and they have calmed down. 
• Seek support if needed. If your child’s tantrums put them in danger of hurting themselves or others, talk to your pediatrician. If the tantrums seem to be getting worse no matter what strategies you try, talk with your child’s teacher or pediatrician for additional advice.

What DON’T I do?
• Try to reason with a tantruming child. If your child is screaming and crying, they are probably past the point of negotiating. A child in the middle of a tantrum is so upset that they aren’t hearing your words. They just know that their tantrum has gotten your attention!
Give in. Ignoring tantrums is hard. No one likes to see their child upset, and sometimes it feels like the easiest way to end the tantrum is to just give the child what they want. But stay strong! Giving in can make tantrums worse because it teaches the child that tantrums will get them what they want. When they understand this, they are more likely to escalate – longer and more intense tantrums – and this is not good for anyone. Remember, you’re teaching your child how to express their feelings in a healthy way, which is an important skill to have!


School Refusal in Children

School Refusal in Children

Written by: Jenn VanEtten

Do you know a child who does not want to go to school or attend virtual classes? Children can find going to school difficult at any age, especially in the new era of remote schooling. While it is normal for a child to refuse school occasionally, it is important to notice when this becomes regular behavior. Frequent refusal to leave the house for school, walk in the classroom, or login to class can have negative impacts on a child’s academic and socio-emotional development. 

What is School Refusal?
For some children, aspects of school may feel overwhelming and challenging, which may result in difficulty going to school and staying in class. This is known as school refusal, and students express it in many ways:
• Consistent difficulty getting a child out of bed and/or to class. 
• Frequent expression of headaches/stomachaches in order to miss instruction.
• Taking repeated and extended bathroom breaks during virtual learning.
• Hiding under a table or in another room during/before online class.
• Turning off the video during virtual learning

If school refusal behavior persists beyond 2-3 days within 2 weeks, it may be time to respond. It is important to go easy on yourself and your child, especially when navigating the novel process of K-12 learning from home. 

Why is it Important to Respond Early?
While school refusal behavior can be considered normal on occasion, continually avoiding class can negatively impact a child’s development. As a result of missing multiple lessons, they may fall behind in learning and experience increased anxiety about catching up—this cycle may be quick to snowball. Younger children with school refusal may be especially prone to difficulty developing healthy friendships with their peers. It is important to recognize this early in order to help children reframe their feelings toward school and prevent long-term consequences. 

What can Parents/Guardians do to Help?
Step in quickly and identify the issue. If a child is exhibiting school refusal behavior for longer than 2-3 days, take action. Gently ask them: “What is it about school that you do not like?” Are they frustrated with distance learning? Are they struggling academically? Maybe both? It’s also possible that neither are the problem and they just prefer to skip class because of a new toy or video game.
• Validate they’re challenges and address the issue. By validating your child’s feelings, you will encourage them to continue verbalizing their thoughts rather than acting on emotions. You might say “I agree that virtual learning is very difficult right now and it is important that you continue to login an participate in class ”. When addressing specific issues that cannot be fixed in the home, it may be best to reach out to a teacher or other school staff to come up with a plan.
Make missing class boring. Allowing a child to do as they please after refusing to attend school – whether in person or online— may reinforce the school refusal behavior. If a child will not engage in learning, you may want to restrict screen time, Wi-Fi access, and other activities that may be encouraging them to refuse school. Identify your child’s preferred activities and ensure they are not available alternatives to attending class.
Communicate and collaborate with school staff. Contact your child’s school counselor, psychologist, or socialworker and tell them what is happening. Depending on the problem, they may determine that it is best to intervene with the child in the class or through a virtual meeting. If the problem persists, ask them for more resources. 
Seek out other professional services. If none of the above are useful, consider contacting a local mental health provider. A common and effective treatment for school refusal behavior is cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy helps by restructuring the child’s anxiety-inducing thoughts about school. 

If you are interested in reading a practical guide for parents/guardians to understand school refusal, check out this book!

To learn more about the early signs and outcomes for children that experience school refusal: