Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anxiety and Bullying

What is bullying?
Bullying is a repeated act that can be physically, verbally or socially aggressive and is intended to cause harm.
Types of Bullying:
a. Physical
• Hitting,
• Pushing,
• Kicking,
• Taking others personal belongings.
b. Verbal
• Threats,
• Putdowns
• Name-calling, nick names.
c. Relational Aggression-Behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others (Crick, N.R., & Nelson, DA, 2002)
• Indirect, hidden acts of aggression
• Social Isolation, exclusion
• Ignoring
• Spreading Rumors/Gossiping
• Cyber-Bullying-IM, E-mail, Web Pages/Blogs
• 18% of students in grades 6-8 said they had been cyber-bullied at least once in the last couple months (Kowalski et al., 2005).

Even if your child is not the target of bullying, they are still affected by the exposure of seeing others being bullied. Children often know who the bullies and their targets are. This can cause a child to feel worried about what might happen if they socialize or stick up for the target. They may not want to upset the bully in any way that could in turn; cause them to become a new target. This in itself can be anxiety provoking for your child simply by being in the presence of bullying.

Signs your child may be affected by bullying:

• Abrupt changes in mood/behavior
• Changes in school performance

• Changes in friend groups
• Frequent complaints of illness or wanting to leave school/Not attend school
• Lowered self-esteem

What can parents do to help their child if they are a victim of bullying?
Be proactive. Even if you are not sure your child has been a victim of bullying, talk with your child about bullying. Explain what bullying is and ask them what their school is doing to work with the issue. Discuss ways of handling situations where your child may be bullied and how to handle it. For instance, it is not uncommon for children to keep their worries about bullying to themselves, often due to fears of the bullying increasing and not wanting to look bad for “telling”. This shows the importance of finding your child supports they know they can trust. Your child should always tell an adult if he feels unsafe in any way and should have an adult in the school they are able to speak to about their issues with bullying, without having to fear their name would be used. Try to stay in pairs or groups and stick up for one another. Bullies tend to look for easy targets.
Role Playing. Another way to prepare your child is by running different scenarios and discussing the importance of trying to stand up to the person who is bullying you in a responsible manner. It is OK to let someone know they are making us uncomfortable. It is OK to let someone know they are being a bully. If he is being bullied on-line, let him know not to reply or stand up to the person doing the bullying. Instead, show an adult.

If your child is showing signs of distress from dealing with bullying, contact your child’s school to make sure they are aware of the situation and to discuss what actions are taken to deal with situations regarding bullying in the school. Because bullying can lead to issues such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, it may also be a good time to consider contacting a child therapist to discuss ways to help your child to cope and build skills to deal with the issues they are experiencing. Help for school refusal and social skills building can be attained through working with a Clinical Therapist.

Deanna Kozlowski, MSW, LCSW

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Impact of Job Loss on Families

Losing a job certainly takes a toll on the person who lost the job. However, when a parent looses a job, everyone in the family is significantly affected.

One of the more obvious changes for families is the reduced income. When a parent looses a job, lifestyle changes are often required. Decisions have to be made about how to spend what money there is. Relied upon extras, such as childcare, extracurricular activities, and various forms of entertainment, often have to be cutoff.

Other, more drastic family changes may result from unemployment. The other family members may have to find employment or increase their hours at work. This change may lead to less family time together. Finding employment may necessitate relocating to a new city. The children may have difficulty and resentment leaving their schools, friends and routine.

Emotional responses from household family members may result from both the reactions to the unemployed parent as well as to the job loss itself. The unemployed parent may withdraw from family members and show signs of depression. There may be more conflict between the parents due to the increased stressors. These challenges increase the discomfort during this period of time, especially for the children. Job loss is frightening for children. They rely on their parents for emotional support. When parents are in distress, the children feel a loss of security.

There are several ways to reduce the negative emotional impact of job loss:
1. Inform the children of the job loss. It is scarier for them to be aware of negative changes and not know what they are. Their imaginations take over.
2. Maintain household routines and keep change to a minimum, as much as possible.
3. Help the children by helping yourself: eat balanced meals, recognize and address signs of stress such as headaches, sleeplessness, digestive problems, angry outbursts and appetite changes.
4. Be on the look out for these signs of stress in the children, too.
5. Have the family discuss their feelings, thoughts and concerns about the job loss situation.
6. Find low or no cost ways to spend family time together.
7. Focus on the positives like having good friends, a loving family, good health, etc.
8. Assure the kids (and yourself) that the job loss is a temporary condition that affects many other people.
9. Use this situation to role-model for the children how to handle a life-crises and use problem-solving skills. Children who see their parents handle stressful situations well are more likely to handle stressful situations successfully as adults.

Holly Houston, Ph.D.