How to be a Good Friend, to Someone Being Bullied.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post called “6 reasons why bystandars choose not to intervene to stop bullying.” It was a good article explaining to parents why kids don’t step in. Why they don’t “do the right thing.”   Building off that article, I thought I’d give some additional perspective on the issue and provide information on ways to help them “do the right thing”, to stand up for themselves and others.

1) Research shows that not just kids, but adults too can stand by and watch when something happens to another person. Why? They believe that someone else watching the situation will clearly step in.  It’s a common response. Therefor, what ends up happening is that no one steps in. If you find yourself in a situation of watching someone else being bullied, stand up for them.  Don’t wait for a teacher to show up or someone else to say something. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. End it fast. If your friend is consistently bullied by the same person, create a plan with him/her on how to handle it together the next time it occurs.

2) Fear of retaliation is very real. Kids are not immune to this and neither are adults. If the bully isn’t violent, again stand strong and he/she will see that confidence in you and back down. But if you show nervousness or anxiety, they may decide to bully you too.  You decide. If the bully is violent, you have to tell a teacher or get an adult involved. If you aren’t comfortable telling a teacher face-to-face then leave a note for them.

3) Sometimes your own friend is the bully and it’s tough to address.  Just because someone is your friend, doesn’t mean he/she isn’t someone else’s bully. Remember that. Think about where you ethically draw the line when your friend is bullying someone else. If your friend crosses that bully line, you have a responsibility to say something.  Have a conversation with them privately in an environment where you’re both comfortable so you can help them see or understand how their actions are hurting others. If they’re going to listen to anyone, they will listen to a friend.  Practice what you’d say to your friend before approaching them.

4) Your circle of friends is very important to you when you’re a teen. Sometimes those outside your circle can almost be seen as invisible/as strangers. So when someone outside your clique is being bullied, maybe you see the situation as “none of your business.”  This is an easy defense mechanism to stop you from intervening. We need to teach teens that their school or neighborhood is a whole community and it’s important to look out for your friends as well as those you don’t know in your community.

5) Standing out is the last thing you want to do as a teen. Puberty and hormones take over and you’re always concerned that people are staring at the way you look, the way you dress, etc. Why would anyone willingly have all eyes on them especially in an uncomfortable situation like confronting a bully? It’s completely irrational for a teen brain. In addition, some teens fear that if they are the one to stand up and say something, the other teens will  “possibly” side with the bully. It may seem ridiculous as an adult, but not to a teen. Chances are, if you stand up against the bully, others will stand with you too. (Maybe even thank you.)  Have a few close friends by your side if that helps.

6) Lastly and maybe most importantly, kids aren’t equipped with the right language on how to intervene. They don’t know what to say, how to say it or when to say it.  So, why would they ever intervene?  Schools and parents need to teach anti-bullying language to kids so that bystanders won’t be bystanders any longer. They’d be equipped with the proper language to use if ever in a bullying situation. Practice this language with them over and over. So, instead of standing there in shock , watching the bullying happen and hoping that they aren’t the next victim, they are equipped to step in.

Remember that bullying has many new forms these days. It’s not restricted to the old image of a bully in the cafeteria or on the bus that calls you names to your face.  Now it can be via Facebook, texts, twitter as well as many other forms of social media.  Bullies can hide their identity now, be more sneaky, share damaging photos or bully via indirect ways.  We need to arm our kids with defenses against these forms of attacks as well.

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How Does Your Self-Esteem in High School Affect you Later?

Recently I was  interviewed by a 16-year-old girl for a teen blog on the topic of self-esteem.  Below is part of that interview.

How can a girl be a good friend to her peers who seem to have personal struggles?

Having a close friend, a “best friend” or a group of friends that you can talk to openly is incredibly important for every girl. Sometimes there are things you just want to talk to a friend about.  If a peer is dealing with a struggle and she comes to you/confides in you, that’s very important. It means that she feels safe with you and trust you as a friend. First and foremost, just being there to listen is always appreciated. Don’t think that you have to have all the answers.  Just talking about something that maybe you have struggled with as well helps her feel not so alone in her situation. However, if your friend is struggling with something that could be damaging to herself, you can be supportive and listen, but you may need some input or guidance from an adult. That is a lot of responsibility for you to take on and you may need to talk to someone who has more experience in that area. A few suggestions would be: You can go with her and talk to your school counselor or you could go with her and talk to a family member.  Bottom line, letting her know that you’re there for her whether you have all the answers or not is probably the most important thing.

How does a girl’s self-esteem in high school affect what happens to her later on?

The high school years are a critical time in a teen’s life. This is the time that developmental psychologists call “identity vs. role confusion.” Which just means, you are trying to figure out what you like , independent of your friends and family, and you are trying to decide who you want to become.  So much is going on with a girl at this age mentally, physically and emotionally. Being comfortable with who you are is key.  Having a positive relationship with your parents and having a group of girlfriends who you can trust is also important.  If issues or challenges aren’t worked out during this phase in your life, chances are a girl will continue to deal with the same issues and struggles into college. Don’t keep things inside. Tell others how you feel. The #1 mistake I see from teens is not telling their parents when they are dealing with a big issue. Trust me, if you are dealing with something that you see as a struggle, your parents want to know about it and want to help you.

What do Teens Think About Self-Respect?

 Another term we could use instead of self-respect would be pride. So what does it mean to have self-respect or pride in oneself?

Teens sometimes have difficulty with the concept of self-respect because they tie it to closely to acceptance by their peers.  They truly believe that their friends have their best interest in mind, but sometimes we see that is not always the case.  True friends love us for who we are, help us through difficult times, and even talk us out of making mistakes.  They would never put us in harms way for the sake of popularity or make us the butt of a joke for a cheap laugh.  Sometimes teens confuse authentic friendships as well as intimate relationships with those that can actually be quite damaging.  If you ask a teen to define self-respect, most of them can. However, they have a difficult time turning those words into action.  They don’t understand what self-respect looks like in practice or action. In my book, Girl Talk, I  talk to teens about their views on self-respect, what it really is and where they think they themselves or other teens go wrong in relation to this concept. Also, I explore and provide teens as well as parents with concrete examples of authentic relationships, healthy self-respect in action and ways to improve it.