Guest Post: I Was Bullied As a Kid

October 19th, 2010

Stacy Lipson is a terrific freelance journalist and a woman who’s not afraid to speak up. I’m so happy that she wanted to share this very personal post with you, and I think she sends a critical message to parents.

We need to talk with our kids about bullying. Someone’s children are doing the bullying. Someone’s children are either joining in, standing by and doing nothing or standing up for the rights of the kids who are getting bullied and saying “this is not OK.”

Please take a moment to read about what Stacy went through as a child and a young teenager. Then sit down at the dinner table tonight and talk with your kids. It’s going to take all of us together to make a dent in this very real problem — which can sometimes lead to tragedy.

Thanks, Stacy, for your post.

Growing up, I wasn’t a part of the popular crowd. I didn’t seem to fit in with the other kids. I was terrible at sports, and with big, dorky glasses that seemed to envelop my face, I was a prime target for bullies.

The abuse started in third grade. It began with a small paper airplane that had been tossed into my cubby hole. “You have germs. Stay away from me.”

Later, my classmates graduated to an even better nickname: Stacy Germs. In line for lunch, on the playground, or at class events, my classmates would huddle as far away from me as possible. I felt isolated, alone, and miserable. So I did what any child would do — I told my teacher.

My teacher held a class meeting, in which she discussed how wrong it was to tease others. Still, my classmates’ behavior was clear enough. I wasn’t a part of their group.

As the years passed, I had trouble making friends. Every time I tried to talk with the other children. I would be shunned for being an outsider. Over time, I learned to find solace through reading. My mother would take me to the bookstore and I would spend hour upon hour delighting myself with fictional characters, immersing myself in a world full of literature and knowledge. Yet I was alone, in ways more than one. And I didn’t know how to tell anyone.

By the time I hit seventh grade, I was a walking mess of insecurity. I was desperate to make friends, but had no idea how to do that. At the same time, my body began to change, and the bullying that I had gotten so used to over the years began to turn into a dulling roar — only this time, it was directed at my body.

A neighborhood bully, Arthur, started to sexually harass me on the school bus. The cruel comments he made left me a quivering, crying mess by the end of the day. Day after day, I endured the comments. My sister and brother, who rode the school bus with me, would try to stand up as my ally. Still, their words fell on deaf ears. Even with three voices raised, the other students sitting beside us never said a word. More than once, multiple voices would join in the torment.

As the abuse continued, I found myself wondering if there was something horrendously wrong with me. When I pounded my pillow at night, I wondered what I had done to make them hate me so. Was it the speech problem I had as a child, where I would accidentally slur my words? Or the way I did my hair, pulled up in a ponytail?

I wish I could say the abuse stopped. That an adult stepped in to make it better. But it didn’t stop with the sexual harassment. In gym class, other girls would offer their own version of torture. I began to get teased for the gym shorts I wore, the t-shirts I brought. Slowly, a ball of bitterness began to sit in a hard knot at the pit of my stomach. In class, I was afraid to speak, for fear that laughter would echo throughout the room. I ached to be a part of the social scene. Still, I didn’t know how to get the abuse to stop.

One night I confessed everything to my mother. With heaving sobs, I told her about all of it. She went to the principal, to the teachers, and to the bus driver, but the abuse never really stopped until I turned 16.

After reading recent news reports about the astonishing number of children who have been bullied, and after reading their tales, this is what I have to say to all of the parents out there:

You may think you understand. But you don’t. You can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it. And if you have experienced it, you know how it feels. The anxiety, fear, and sadness that seem to be a part of your daily experience. The wish that some day, not too far off, the abuse would stop. The wish to be someone else.

I don’t like to talk about what happened to me as a child. I never thought I would need to. But I think it’s important for parents to realize that bullying is an epidemic. It’s not going to go away anytime soon, and once one child starts, the rest can join in. It’s time to do something. Children need to realize the power behind their words and actions, and parents need to make sure that their children are listening. Hard.

I didn’t speak up then. I wish I had.

Stacy Lipson is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications. Follow her on Twitter.

Hey, Doc — Can You Talk With My Kid About Sex?

October 18th, 2010

When we bring our wanna-be-teen and teenage kids to the doctor for routine check-ups, many of us are hoping our kid’s doctor or nurse practitioner will do more than just check blood pressure, listen to our child’s heart and keep the vaccination record up to date.

We also want the doctor to talk with our kids about sex, diet, drug abuse and smoking, says a report from the University of Michigan.

The poll — which asked parents of 11- to 17-year-old kids to rate 18 health-related topics for healthcare providers to address during an adolescent’s routine check-up — found that diet/nutrition, exercise/sports and the physical changes of puberty were the overall top three issues parents want discussed, followed by drugs, tobacco, sexually transmitted diseases and depression/suicide.

Doctors have heard it all, and they know how to talk with teens and pre-teens about these potentially touchy topics. So if there’s something on your mind that you’d like your child’s doctor to discuss during an upcoming office visit, call her in advance and let her know.

Have you had any situations where your pediatrician talked with your child about these subjects? Do you wish your pediatrician would bring up these things during a visit?

Guest Post: Thanks, But My Tween Will Pass on the Hooker Heels and Makeup

October 15th, 2010

Today’s guest blogger, Jennifer Smith, is mom to a tween girl and a teen boy. She’s a proponent of university-model schools (I want to ask her to blog about that, too!), a world traveler and a freelance writer and editor. Thanks for your post, Jennifer.

Whose job is it to help my 12-year-old daughter make important wardrobe choices? Everyone is eager to help. The malls are selling grown-up mystique to 12-year-olds faster than I can say, “How about a cute t-shirt under
that?”

Magazines and television ads and shows are “helping,” suggesting our kids can be tomorrow’s big pop stars if they dress and move a certain way. And many of the other girls are pressuring those who dress less “cool” to
dress older.

One day recently, I heard a young fashionista ask another tween girl, “Where did you get that shirt?” After the reply that the girl bought the shirt at a nearby children’s store, the fashionista rasped back saucily, “Oh, I thought so.” Sounds harmless enough to a parent, but for a fragile tween, that’s enough to make her want to burn everything in her closet!

Maybe a better question than whose job it is to help my daughter (i.e., market tween fashion to her) is, “Who is going to help my daughter make wise decisions about the way she dresses?” My answer? Her mom. No one else is going to help her navigate these decisions as honestly and carefully as I will. Not her friends, not the other tweens out there wearing full
makeup, hooker heels and skirts cut up to “there,” and certainly not the media.

No one else is going to be honest with her about the pitfalls of dressing too old too soon. With all the messaging encouraging girls to grow up fast, I want my daughter to have time and freedom to enjoy being a girl, playing sports and acting goofy with her friends.

That doesn’t mean she has to dress frumpy; I just don’t want her to dress “sexy,” for crying out loud! There’s plenty of time to grow up, but once those child years are lost, they can
never be regained.

Let’s be parents and take back our right to say “no” to anything that steals the innocence of our girls, including their wardrobe choices. Our “no” to growing up too fast and dressing too maturely is just a “yes” to so many other good things our kids need to be doing right now.

Mummy Milk!

October 13th, 2010

Leave it to our creative friends at New Jersey Family magazine to share a terrific recipe for Mummy Milk.

The milk looks a little creepy… Just right for a Halloween treat for the kids. (OK, I want to try it, too.)

Throw in a plate of brownies with one of those little candy-corn Pumpkins on the middle of each square and you have a great Halloween surprise!

A Wonderful Video to Share With Your Little One: Andrea Bocelli Sings a Lullabye to Elmo

October 11th, 2010

Is Your Kid Sharing Too Much on Facebook?

October 10th, 2010

Not long ago I saw something on Facebook that parents should know about.

Some middle-school kids, who may not necessarily list where they live on their profiles, are joining Facebook  groups with names like “Run Day at ______ Middle School Sucks.” Or “Swim P.E. at ______ Middle School Sucks.”

Should 12- and 13-year-old kids be on Facebook in the first place? Probably only with their parents’ knowledge and supervision. Why? Because they don’t always think about the logical consequences of their actions.

No child should be this easily identified online, especially when it comes to where they live and what school they go to. I looked at the profiles of some of these kids (many of which were public and not protected; another issue for kids this age), and I was amazed at how much personal information they gave out, either in their profiles or through the groups they joined.

If your kid is on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or some other social-networking site, make sure you check out his or her profile, posts, tweets, etc. regularly. If your child doesn’t want to friend you on Facebook, insist on knowing her password and let her know that you’ll be checking out her Facebook page from time to time to make sure she is not endangering herself or her friends by giving out too much information.

If your child posts videos on YouTube, make sure he doesn’t identify where he lives, where he goes to school, etc.

Talk with your child about being safe on the Web, and about Internet predators. We all watch the news and we all hear about kids being contacted by people who should not be targeting kids.

If you wouldn’t want your 13-year-old daughter telling a 40-year-old male stranger where she attends 7th grade, then you’ll want to make sure she isn’t doing exactly that — without intending to — online.

Guest Post: Letter To My Daughter (In The Wake of a Senseless Tragedy)

October 7th, 2010

I’m so honored to be able to share with you a guest post from Vicky Bell, who blogs over on Vicky Bell’s Blog. This post really touched me, and I will be sharing it with my teenage son. You might want to share it with your kids, too.

Hello my girl,

I  wanted to say hi and tell you how much I miss you and that I hope your classes are going well and that you are having fun, too. But I also have to have a mommy moment —  bear with me here.  I won’t take long, and I won’t be saying anything I haven’t already said in one form or another, but it is important.

You may or may not have heard about the N.J. college student who killed himself last week because his roommate had posted videotape of him having sex with another guy. A terrible, senseless tragedy.

My mommy job requires that I remind you of two essential things:

One: Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.
Two: Nothing ruins your life forever. NOTHING.

If that young man had only waited a couple of weeks, nobody would have cared. He’d have gotten past it.  People have short memories. Life would have gotten better, much better. His parents and friends? They loved him prior to the tape, They would have loved him afterward, too.  A few awkward moments and then life goes on.

But when you are young, you don’t know that even the awkward moments are fleeting. On this,  you just have to trust the old people. Remember when you were really small and cried and cried over something?  Well,  it didn’t last. That’s kind of what it’s like. Awful things happen, you feel like there’s a rock in the pit of your stomach, somehow time goes by and it gets better. I promise you, it ALWAYS gets better.

The students, a girl and boy who were involved in the taping and posting, are being charged with invasion- of-privacy crimes and possibly other things. Their college life is over.  They will have to live with this death the rest of their lives — and their families are devastated. What they did was so wrong, but also so kid-stupid.  Not to mention mean. And so their lives will be different forever. But even so, their families will love them and they will have time enough to hopefully live in such a way as to make meaning from their mistake.

So, my beautiful girl,  never, ever think something is un-fixable. NOTHING you do will ever keep us from loving you. NOTHING you do could be so awful you can’t get past it.

And if someone is mean to you, and it isn’t something you can ignore, seek out people to talk to about it.  Surround yourself with people who are supportive. If you ever need help and don’t know how to ask, try writing a letter instead. And right now, before you might need such help, think about whom you would talk to if needed. In the midst of turmoil, sometimes we don’t always think as clearly. Having a plan makes it easier to find help in crisis. And remember there are always alternatives. Always.

Finally, don’t be mean. Don’t let other people be mean. Stand up for the underdog, protect those who aren’t as smart or confident or easygoing as yourself. Treat people’s feelings like fragile little puppies. If you play with them, be gentle.

I love you so much and I know you really don’t need me to tell you this stuff… But it’s my job.

Love and hugs,
Mommy

— Vicky Bell is 50 years old, married to Jim, proud mom of three grown kids, with a newly emptied nest and the sense that life is a grand adventure. She is also the owner of the Red Lion Paint Store on rt. 206n, Branchville, NJ, home of the 2010 “Art is Local” Project.

A Little Something to Get You in a Halloween Mood…

October 6th, 2010

Happy Halloween (soon!) from the Sena Family!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Today’s the Day! Parent Talk Today & Positive Parenting Solutions Free Webinar

October 6th, 2010

Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling

I’m excited to partner with Amy McCready from Positive Parenting Solutions to offer a free, live parenting-training webinar TONIGHT from 9:30-10:30 PM EDT / 6:30-7:30 PM PDT. You’ve seen Amy on The Rachel Ray Show and The Today Show, sharing her wonderful parenting advice.

Get Kids to Listen without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling is for frustrated parents of toddlers through teens and delivers concrete strategies you can use right away and begin to see results.

(I’m especially interested in learning the 5 R’s of fair and effective consequences…)

The webinar will be fun and interactive.  You can type your questions into the chat box and Amy will make them part of the webinar.  All you have to do is RSVP and then kick back and learn her proven strategies to get toddlers, and even bigger kids, to listen the first time without nagging, reminding or yelling!

Webinar reservations will be limited so click here to learn more and RSVP RIGHT NOW!

Feel free to share this on your FACEBOOK page by clicking here. Spread the word to your friends and let’s all meet up and enjoy this free webinar!

Sexy Halloween Costumes for Girls — Revisited

October 4th, 2010

Two years ago I wrote a post on sexy Halloween costumes for girls and it created a bit of a stir here, becoming the most-viewed post since we started Parent Talk Today more than three years ago.

At first I thought that was because of all the concerned parents who wanted to talk about kids’ costumes and their thoughts on the current crop of too-sexy outfits for young girls.

Silly me. One look at my stats for the blog and I saw that much of the traffic I was receiving for this post came from smarmy Google searches for key phrases such as “sexy teen,” “sexy kids,” “little girls sex,” “sexy young girls,” etc.

In short, there are plenty of creepy folks out there who get their kicks from looking at little girls in sexy outfits. These people are online, of course. But they also shut down the laptop and leave the house now and then.

Either way, they’d just love to see our young daughters in sexy little Halloween costumes. Creepy enough for you?

Before someone starts talking about women being able to wear anything they want and how we are repressing our kids, who just want to be like their friends and wear the cool costumes, let’s remember who’s in charge of our children’s safety here. We’re not talking about a 21-year-old woman’s right to wear whatever she wants to a bar. We’re talking about perschoolers, gradeschool kids and tweens. They need parents who will watch over them, make good choices for them (even when it’s not popular) and keep them safe.