Is My Kid Ok?: Mean girls
By Regina Alexander
It can be heartbreaking to know that your child is being picked on or excluded. Addressing this type of situation can be a difficult balancing act for parents. Your daughter needs to be able to deal with social conflicts on her own, if at all possible, as she will need conflict-resolution skills later in her life. Begin by teaching her a simple method of response:
- Tell the other child to stop and that it hurts her feelings.
- If the child continues, walk away.
- If the child follows her, tell an adult what is happening.
Relational aggression can be as serious as physical aggression, especially in older children. We may have been taught “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” but this is no longer true. What parents see as harmless words can turn into cyber-stalking, vicious rumors or ostracizing. Remember to take your child’s concerns seriously at any age. Kids who cut themselves, abuse substances or attempt suicide are often looking for some way to ease the pain which seems unbearable to them. Often a parent could have helped the child to bear it.
The main way to ensure your daughter is not a victim is to teach her to be a survivor. Have an open relationship with her that fosters communication and let her know that you believe in her. Build her confidence by focusing on her strengths. If assertiveness does not come naturally, help her by role-playing or help her to figure out the point she wants to get across. Finally, let her know that it is OK to say no or to tell others when she is uncomfortable. If your child has assertiveness and confidence, she is less likely to be an ongoing target for “mean girls.”
Empathy is a key lesson for parents of the “mean girl” to teach. Preschool is the perfect time to focus on emotional cause and effect with children. They may not realize that their actions hurt others, even when others have hurt them in the same way. However, be sure not to shame your child for things he or she has done. Shame does not teach anything except self-loathing. Children need to be guided and directed in how they treat others and how to correct their behaviors.
Regina Alexander is a licensed clinical social worker. She works as a counselor at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. Please submit your questions to “Is My Kid OK?” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.