Hudson Valley Parent

HVP March 2020

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Page 24 of 35 n Hudson Valley Parent 25 to go to school, or has a change in mood or behavior, something might be wrong and worth exploring, even if the ultimate cause is not bullying. The most important thing par- ents can do, when they suspect something is wrong, is to talk with and listen to their children. Check in frequently and ask them how they are feeling. If they claim to be fine, which is a common answer from youth, suggest to them that their recent behavior is unusual or concerning and that, as a parent, you are committed to protecting and supporting them. Ask direct questions, like: "Are you feeling safe?", "What is it like to ride the school bus?", "Is anyone treating you badly?" or "How are you getting along with your friends?" These prompts can act as catalyst for your child to begin to share or engage in a deeper conversation. Bullied kids need support. Candidly asking your children if they have been bullied is important, similarly to asking them if they are depressed, anxious, or suicidal. By inquiring, you are providing them with a direct lifeline to receive help. Victims, especially youth, can strug- gle with asking for help and articu- lating painful feelings on their own. It is vital to listen without interrupt- ing or immediately offering advice, as parents are often tempted to do. Bullying can trigger feelings of shame or low self-esteem, so let kids know they are not alone and engage them in joint problem solving to develop some solutions they feel comfortable with. These may include: immediately reporting incidents of bullying to a teacher or administrator, such as the school principal or guidance counselor; staying safe by avoiding the people, places or activities where bullying occurs; engaging in activities they love, like sports or art-related clubs; directly telling a bully to stop, and walking away if this is not effec- tive; speaking with a mental health counselor; staying close to adults or a trusted group of friends and, in some cases, involving the authori- ties if the bullying escalates further. Do not be apprehensive about seeking professional help for you or your child if he is experienc- ing sadness, anxiety or other side effects of bullying. By scheduling an appointment for a consultation with your child's pediatrician or a mental health expert, you can dras- tically improve, if not save, your child's life. If you live in Dutchess or Ulster County, you can bring your child into one of Astor Services for Children & Families' mental health clinics, no appointment necessary. Bullying is stopped through action. Take steps to combat the existence and escalation of bullying in your child's school and commu- nity by working with other parents, teachers and administrators to enforce safety, inclusion, respect and zero tolerance for any form of harassment. Stay informed and involved by spending time with your child and asking him or her about the school day, feelings and perceptions of, or experiences with, bullying. Encourage them to be kind to others, and to stand up for vic- tims of bullying. By educating them about this issue from a young age, you can help build their self-confi- dence and better protect them from being targeted. Both parents and children can benefit by learning more about bul- lying. There are several great web- sites to visit, including stopbullying. gov and lying-and-cyberbullying.htm. James McGuirk, Ph.D., is the president of the Children's Foun- dation of Astor, and a licensed psychologist with extensive clinical experience in working with high risk youth. NATIONAL Pacer's National Bullying Pre- vention Center NEW YORK STATE Cyberbullying ORANGE COUNTY Safe Schools Ambassadors Safe Homes of Orange County America's Promise Alliance, Orange County Cornell Cooperative Orange County, Let's Talk About Cy- berbullying DUTCHESS COUNTY Mediation Center of Dutchess County Mental Health America of Dutchess County, Kids on the Block Grace Smith House, Teenagers & Peers ULSTER COUNTY Ulster County, Stop Bullying Mental Health Association of Ulster County Girls Incorporated of Ulster and Dutchess Counties YWCA Youth & Family Ser- vices SULLIVAN COUNTY Frost Valley YMCA, No Room for Bullying! Safe Homes of Orange County (and Sullivan County) Bullying resources

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