All parents worry about the influence other children have on their own children. And all parents want to protect their children from negative influences. But when parents tell their child not to be friends with another child, it usually has the exact opposite effect. Pointing out that another child is a bad influence creates resentment and anger. So what should an adult do when a child has started hanging out with individuals who are having a negative influence?
First, we must consider what creates bonds between people. In general, it is our commonalities that bind us together. When we have something in common with somebody, we think, “Oh, I like that person. She gets me. We have the same interests.” If a child gravitates toward friends who are interested in smoking, hanging out on the streets late at night, or other negative or risky behaviors, that means the child feels accepted by those people and may have some common interests or, in many cases, some common pain.
There are many different types of depression, and the causes for depression are varied and extensive. Depression could be the result of chemical imbalances in a person’s brain. Medication can help with these imbalances to reduce the symptoms, or sometimes, to relieve them completely. Even when the depression is situational, the depression does not always show up at the time the causative event occurs. This makes determining the reason for depression difficult.
For example, a five-year-old child loses her mother. We know such a loss can have a profound effect on a child’s psychological development, but the effect on the child, and the potential resultant depression, might not show up for many years. In this situation, it might be difficult to determine the cause of the depression when it appears, but once the history is known, the cause is fairly straightforward.
At some point in a school year, a teacher will encounter a difficult parent. A difficult parent is someone who doesn’t believe or trust the teacher and blames the school for any problem their child is having. These parents believe their child is perfect even though the child might be failing academically or having real challenges with behavior.
How can teachers approach parents like this? Shimon Waronker, EdD, experienced a situation in which a team of teachers was having difficulty communicating with a particular parent whose child was troubled, both academically and behaviorally, and the parent maintained that the situation was all the teachers’ faults. The parent truly believed the teachers were ganging up on her blameless child.
There has always been a debate about whether we should expose children who are clueless about drugs and substance abuse to information about these sensitive topics. There are powerful arguments for both sides of this issue but in a school setting, where children are not segregated according to their levels of innocence, it may be necessary to expose the more innocent students to this information in order to inform and protect those who are engaging in risky behaviors. Dena Gorkin, CPP, believes it is better to inform innocent children than to leave the exposed kids unprotected.
Cyberbullying is one of the most dangerous forms of bullying for the simple reason that online we are given the luxury of anonymity and we are often our worst selves when we are anonymous. We are angrier and meaner, and we do and say things we would never do or say in person. It’s easy to make cruel remarks to others when you don’t have to do it to their faces.
For better or worse, anything published online is public and permanent. These are two important ‘p’ words that today’s generation does not understand. They will say “I deleted it”, but it doesn’t matter if we deleted something from our devices. Once it is out there in the cyber world, it exists forever in the public domain.
One of the most challenging situation parents can find themselves in is when the school principal or teacher believes their child has a learning disability and perhaps requires special education intervention. Unfortunately, a learning disability is seen as a stigma by many parents and their response is predictably, “No, my child is normal. My child does not have special needs. How dare you say something like that about my child?!” The reality, however, is that each child is different; each child has his or her own special needs.
A child can be gifted but still require special education services. Each child needs to be able to have his or her needs met, and different learners learn at different paces and have different abilities. Parents need to remain open to the fact that the feedback from the school is likely correct. Maybe the child does need help, and parents need to consider how they will avail themselves of the resources that are out there to help their child.
Most parents have heard the adage to “never argue in front of the children.” But this might not always be the best advice, especially if we know how to “argue” in a constructive way. Very few of us are taught how to argue, so when moments of disagreement arise, we cling to our viewpoints and feelings and stop listening. This always leads to trouble, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Rabbi Shea Hecht believes showing children how to discuss, disagree and debate in a way that conveys our ideas to the other person respectfully, might be the greatest tool we ever give children.
If two adults are engaged in unfair and dirty arguing, then that type of arguing should be out of sight and earshot of children. Arguing that includes name-calling and putting each other down only damages a child’s ability to interact effectively with others. This type of arguing sets a bad example.
If you suspect a teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, do not panic and do not immediately speak to the teenager about the situation. Speaking to the teenager before you have a plan usually backfires because the conversation quickly disintegrates into a confrontation, which accomplishes nothing.
The first thing you need to do is think of people in your life who can be helpful and think of professionals to contact. Determine if there is another adult—an uncle, older brother, or favorite cousin—with whom the child has a good relationship and may have some positive influence. Is there a member of the clergy that can be helpful? Does the child have a pediatrician who has been a regular part of his or her care? Think of people in your life who can connect with the child you are concerned about. Enlist one or more of these people to spend time with the child, since he or she might open up to this person when not being open to a parent.
Bullying is devastating for those who experience it, and it is extremely unpleasant for those who witness it as well. Bullying doesn’t just impact the lives of victims and the bullies themselves, but it also affects those who see it happen in the school or the community.
Imagine if every day when you went to work there was a strong possibility that one of your colleagues was going to be brutally teased, socially excluded, or embarrassed. It wouldn’t be an easy place to function. How can we expect children to learn if our school environments are rife with the feeling that at any moment somebody could be a victim in a similar situation?
For most teenagers, parties are a rite of passage and attendance or lack of attendance at a party can significantly impact their social standing. In today’s society, young people feel the pressure and opinion of their peers constantly, thanks to social media and the “standards” set by celebrities and social media influencers.
It is very important that parents communicate with their children concerning parties where alcohol and drugs may be present. Forbidding a teenager from going to one of these parties is ineffectual in the long term, and it shuts down open communication between the parent and the child. Instead, before the party, the parent should say, “I know there may be drugs and alcohol present at this party, and there’s going to be potentially risky behaviors. I love you and I care about you, and I hope you are strong enough to resist them.”