TEENS AND BULLYING

Jaclyn Best

Metropolitan State University journalist and novelist, Jaclyn Best, reveals why this phenomenon should not be explained away as “kids just being kids”.

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            Rebecca Ann Sedwick was only 12 years old when she committed suicide on Sept. 9, 2013.  It was only after she jumped from a platform at an abandoned cement plant in Lakeland, Fla. that people started to pay attention.

It was a different story for her mother, however.  Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, knew of the daily torments her daughter faced and did everything in her power to help.  Norman went through the rigmarole of speaking with school officials for many months to no avail.  The bullying continued.  Eventually, Norman was forced to pull her daughter out of school temporarily.  She took her daughter’s phone away and even shut down her Facebook account but in the following months, Sedwick began to cut herself.  Instead of verbal and physical abuse that a child would usually face in school, Sedwick experienced a different kind of bullying: cyber-bullying.  She received constant hateful messages from various social networks, including ask.fm.  It was only a few short months later that she would decide to take her own life.

Over the past several years, many pre-teens as well as teens have been driven to commit suicide because of bullying.  Roughly 30 percent of teenagers in America are involved in bullying, whether they are the victims or not.  Eleven percent reported that they are the focus of bullies; while 6 percent reported that they are the bully and are bullied themselves.  Boys are more prone to being bullied but girls are also very likely to be bullied.  Boys also tend to engage in physical violence, whereas girls tend to harass others verbally.

What may come as a surprise to many people is that there are four different types of bullying:

  • Physical Bullying: This involves mostly hitting, kicking or pushing.  It can also involve stealing or ruining one’s belongings and making someone do something against their wishes.
  • Verbal Bullying: The main characteristics involve name-calling, teasing, taunting and insulting others.
  • Emotional Bullying: This type of bullying is harder to distinguish.  Emotional bullying involves trying to isolate someone, making them feel completely alone.  Sometimes several bullies torment the victim, as opposed to just one.
  • Cyber-Bullying: Sometimes known as electronic bullying, those experiencing this are typically ostracized through social media, text messages, instant messaging and the like.

There are many warning signs that your child may be bullied at school: their schoolwork worsens, they have constant nightmares, they are moody or angry consistently or they disengage from their friends and daily activities.  If your child suffers from any of these signs, there are steps you can take to help your son or daughter overcome bullying.  The first most important step is to sit down with your child and talk to them about what may be going on.  If you find your teen is being harassed, perhaps the most crucial step a parent can take is to speak with counselors, teachers or coaches about the problem.  People in these positions will also have the authority to put a stop to the bullying permanently.  Your child should also know that he/she is not alone and will always have someone to confide in at school.

Many teens repeatedly ask, “Why me?” whenever they are the target of bullies.  These teens need not blame themselves for the actions of their tormentor(s).  Bullies typically persecute their victims because of jealousy, the desire to be infamous or because they crave power.  Sometimes, they are bullied themselves and want to escape the problems of their own life.  Whatever the case may be, those who are bullied are not at fault.  In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The Two Stages of Grief (for Preschoolers)

Guest author Jerry Mahoney’s article puts the fun back into the fundamental stages of grief. You can read about the further adventures of Mommy Man on his blog http://jerry-mahoney.com. Jerry’s new book, Mommy Man, is available on Amazon.fish

jerry-mahoney.com

We did a little bit of bargaining in the wake of my daughter’s fish’s death — if that’s what you’d call it when we offered to get her a new fish, and five seconds later she was thinking up names for it. Other than that, my kids skipped right over denial, anger and depression and went straight to acceptance.

This morning, we brought home Sutton’s new fish, Matilda, named after her favorite book, musical and second-favorite movie (behind James and the Giant Peach). Before we’d even transferred Matilda into her permanent tank, Sutton was thinking up names for the next fish she’d get after Matilda died. (The current front-runner for the next fish’s name: Sutton). Then, Bennett started thinking up names for the fish he’d get after his current fish, Sulley, died. (Current front-runner: Bennett).

Drew and I tried to keep the conversation about fish, but it didn’t take long before…

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Emergency Preparedness, Families and the Media

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By Krista Vachon

A former writer for the Center for Research Strategies, award winning author Krista Vachon has published numerous articles and short stories.

September is Emergency Preparedness Month.  In light of Colorado’s recent wildfires and floods, it is important for parents to not only be aware of how tragedies affect their children but also how media coverage of these events impacts them. Experiencing a dangerous flood or wildfire can be severely painful for families and damaging to a child’s sense of security and normality which can lead to several issues and coping challenges in children.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross created a pamphlet called, Helping Children Cope with Disaster (HCCD), which reports that children respond to disasters by showing signs of increased anxiety or emotional and behavioral problems. A child’s age is also a factor of how they will cope. Younger children may return to earlier behavior patterns, such as bed wetting and separation anxiety, while older children may react to physical and emotional disruptions with aggression or withdrawal. HCCD also reports that during emergencies, it is important for parents to maintain a sense of control over the situation, as children tend to imitate the way adults cope with disasters. The best assistance a parent can provide a child is to be calm, honest and caring.

Children and adolescents perceive media coverage of disasters differently.  In a recent interview, Washington Correspondent, Colin Campbell states that, “Most news is delivered for those with a 6th to 8th grade education, so it’s pretty easily understood.” Media covers a wide range of topics and it is often the adolescent viewer or reader who will be more interested in a specific news item depending on how it personally affects them. “Very often a response is measured by what the recipient of the information finds interesting,” said Campbell.

If a family is in the midst of a tragedy and watching news coverage of the events, children tend to “see” the destruction while adolescents are more apt to “understand” the repercussions of the disaster impending on them.

“I have interviewed children after a tornado hit several years back north of Denver. Of course children were shaken up and they realized that they had lost their home or their favorite toy. However, it’s doubtful that they could perceive the financial impact or the physical involvement that it would take to restore their lives to normal; truly heartbreaking,” Campbell said.

Campbell states that, “The media doesn’t often provide closure for families, but instead provide the coverage of families’ closure. The job of a reporter is often to highlight a problem, how it was caused and how it is being resolved. It is rarely to share how well everything is going in every community.”

When storms hit, many people want to know how it will affect them and if it doesn’t affect them, people tend to tune out. “For example, a story about flooding and millions of dollars in damages is more compelling than a story about a family that is now able to watch TV and do their laundry after the storm has past and normalcy has returned,” Campbell stated. This lack of coverage tends to leave children without a sense of closure to these tragedies, which in turn, instills a sense of fear into the child.

It is important for parents to be aware of these behavioral changes in their children after disaster strikes. Although such responses in the child are usually temporary, HCCD reports that the child’s anxiety may be triggered by things such as sirens, high winds and other emotional reminders associated with the disaster. If your child is asking questions about what they see outside of the window or on TV, it is advisable for parent to give age appropriate responses. If a young child is asking questions, HCCD says to answer their questions simply without the details one may provide older children or adults.

For additional information about events in your area, Emergency Preparedness Month and keeping families safe, please visit ReadyColorado.

Eating Disorders

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Jaclyn Best

Jaclyn Best is a student journalist at Metropolitan State University in Denver.  She has written a number of investigative articles on current issues.          

It’s no secret that teenagers suffer from self-esteem and body image issues.  Two of the more prominent problems that teens face today are anorexia and bulimia.  Even more surprising, both teenage girls and boys suffer from these eating disorders.

While anorexia and bulimia are both eating disorders, each have their own specific symptoms.  Those with anorexia have an intense fear of getting fat and will do everything in their power to eat very sparingly, if at all.  People with anorexia also make a habit of over-exercising and taking diet pills.  On the other hand, individuals with bulimia binge on food, but once he or she is through eating, they will consume laxatives or force themselves to purge.  Bulimics tend to go through episodes of this kind of behavior.

Statistics continue to upset and even scare many parents.  The growing trend of extreme dieting by both genders continues to increase.  Aboutface.org lists several studies conducted over the years.  A survey conducted as recently as 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that teens aged 14-18 were trying to lose weight, and approximately 29% of males and 59% of females felt they needed to change their weight.  Another study by the CDC in the same year showed that 56.2% of teenagers tried to eat less food or eat low-fat food to keep from gaining weight and 65.7% exercised for the sole purpose of losing a few pounds.

But what is as equally puzzling in these studies is that teenagers are more overweight than ever before.  Health experts believe that extreme dieting may be the cause.  While teens are dieting to “improve” their bodies, they are actually stunting their growth and possibly causing nutrient deficiencies.

The warning signs of anorexia and bulimia are hard to detect, but parents and peers can watch out for more subtle signs and behaviors such as:

  • Strict dieting rules that he/she follows
  • Excessive exercise
  • Any use of diet pills or laxatives
  • Constant trips to the bathroom after eating
  • Hoarding food or bingeing on food

If you find your son, daughter or friend engaging in these kinds of behaviors, there are certain steps you can take to help support your loved one.  The first and most important step is to not comment on his or her looks.  Whether or not it is a compliment, any focus on his/her body will only cause harm.  This could possibly lead them to have more negative feelings towards themselves.  Instead, let them know that they can confide in you.  The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) believes that parents have a lot of sway and can encourage better self-esteem and positive thinking.  Perhaps the best way to do this, according to NEDA, is to set a confident example.  Teenagers are usually well aware of their parents’ attitudes about their own bodies.  By being positive about your own body, you can inspire your son or daughter to do the same.

Unfortunately, these tactics may not work for all teenagers.  If parents continue to see unhealthy behaviors, one should seek professional help immediately.  It can be difficult to discern whether or not a parent should seek help.  However, the longer one waits, the harder it will be for a loved one to overcome their eating disorder.  Encouraging your son or daughter to get a physical is a great first step to take.  It is important not only to treat his or her current problem, but a doctor may be able to discern what could be feeding their eating disorder, such as an anxiety disorder or even depression.