Studies have shown that kids who are bullied and rejected by members of their peer group are also likely suffering and struggling in other areas of their life. They are also prone to an increase in poor grades, truancy, mental health problems and an increase in alcohol, or substance abuse later on in life.
Although there are many factors that contribute to social isolation, the following are the most common. All three involve the child’s inability or difficulty to understand and respond to the social cues of others.
1. Being able to read non-verbal cues: Behaviors such as rolling eyes, not being looked at in the eye and distractibility are all social cues which indicate that the person we are talking to is no longer interested in what we are saying. Children have difficulty recognizing cues like this, and often ignore them outright.
2. Properly understanding and interpreting non-verbal cues: Children can often sense that cues are being given to them but are not sure how to interpret them. As a result, they might continue with their behavior without realizing its effect on others.
3. Learning and carrying out appropriate options for resolving conflict: Often, children who are socially immature are not able to properly resolve conflict with their peers. These are the children who are tantrumming way beyond their toddler years, or whose patience level is so low that they become easily and quickly verbally aggressive.
4 Tips to Help Vulnerable Children
1. First, parents need to identify the struggles faced by their children and be prepared to assist them in facing them head on. Often, parents shy away from these problems because managing them seems far too overwhelming. And, perhaps acknowledging the social skills problems in their children is perceived by many parents as a reflection of their parenting technique. Parents must be open to understanding what social-skills deficits their children have and find ways within their family structure to build their children up.
2. Parents must learn to speak to their children without judgment. It is easy for parents to forget that children act impulsively and are very rarely deliberately malicious toward their peers. By talking to their children with sensitivity and understanding, and by helping their children understand the mistakes they have made, children are able to take a look at their own behavior, evaluate it in the presence of a non-threatening person (i.e. parent), and practice making changes.
3. Parents can help their children identify the cues that they might have missed while interacting with others. Instead of using ‘should have’ type statements, parents can teach their children to be more aware of the impact that their behavior has on others by asking their child to imagine themselves in the other child’s shoes. For instance, “How would you feel if Jonny interrupted you like that when you were speaking? Then maybe next time, let Jonny finish talking before you start to speak. After all, that is what you would want for yourself, is it not?” Although this exercise is simplistic, children are very visually oriented and respond well when things are laid out for them in clear, simple terms.
4. In order to solidify any newly-learned skill with our children, it is important for parents to reinforce the skill across as many situations as possible. This will help our children learn to transfer their skills and apply them in all areas of their life, social and otherwise.
Regardless of all these efforts put into place, we worry about our children and their ability to survive out there in the world. Every child is more vulnerable in one area while having more strengths in others. Even within the same family unit, our children’s needs vary drastically. As parents, it is our responsibility to acknowledge these differences and celebrate them. At the same time, we must not be afraid or embarrassed to acknowledge when our children are struggling and help them with whatever means necessary.
Image: © Dyonisos | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Children and Body Image
Being a mother of 3 girls, discussions about body image have been a recurring theme in our home for almost as long as my children have been able to speak. As children get older, they become more aware of their bodies, how they are changing, and what they like and do not like about their physical appearance.
In talking with friends and clients, I have come to learn that our children are more critical of themselves than ever before. And they are starting to talk about their bodies at a much younger age. And not necessarily in a positive light. This is particularly true for girls, who on average reach puberty earlier than their male classmates and whose bodies start to change that much younger.
I often hear, either directly from my own children or overhearing conversations with their friends that they wish they were not so chubby so they can wear that style shirt or comments like, “That girl is so lucky that she can wear a smaller size. I wish I can wear that size…”
These comments, in and of themselves, are not harmful. But they do cause reason for concern. The intentions behind them, or understanding the thought processes in our children’s’ minds before making these comments, can be cause for worry.
So how can parents discuss the topic of body image in a positive way and not focus so much on weight and size?
Like most other children, mine enjoy their sweets and love to eat ‘junk’. They ask for it daily, and almost feel as if receiving a treat is an entitlement instead of a reward. Although we try to limit the indulgence in unhealthy food as much as possible, rather than deprive our children, as parents I feel it is more our job to teach them proper eating habits and exercise regimens.
Children should never be deprived of sweets. In fact, I think children should never be deprived of anything. All in moderation, of course. Without the proper exposure and opportunity to be faced with temptation, children cannot learn to regulate their own urges, learn proper impulse control, and in general feel like they are in control of their own bodies.
Children need to be taught the proper tools to make informed decisions and learn that there are consequences to the decisions that they make, on their bodies, but also on their overall health. Let’s face it, whether it’s school snacks, play dates or birthday parties, our children are sharing food, trading food, and are not always in sight of mom or dad to tell them when to stop eating chips by the fistful.
Instead of parents trying to micro-manage everything their child eats, that emotional energy should be focused on speaking to our children about what makes food healthy, and similarly, what makes food unhealthy, and the consequences of eating too much food of any kind in excess.
In our home, we never use the words ‘diet’, ‘fat’ or ‘heavy’. Instead, we try to focus on being healthy and fit. When our children ask why they need to exercise, we elaborate on the outcome we as their parents know they can achieve; we want them to be fit and have a healthy heart. We elaborate that eating healthy foods rich in nutrients and drinking lots of water helps keep their skin, bones and muscles healthy and strong.
Most children are very visual, and creating a chart of healthier foods vs. foods that are not as healthy, can help children learn about nutrition on their own and teach them how to make good decisions.
So as parents, when it comes to teaching our children about nutrition and healthy body image it is our job to plant the seed, and nurture them. Like every other skill we wish for them to acquire, parents need to teach the best they can, model by example and hope that somewhere along the way the proper messages are getting through.
Ultimately, like with everything else, it is the child’s will, education, and confidence in their own ability to make decisions, which will benefit them as they too become adults. A lot of praying and hoping from mom and dad does not hurt either.
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