Mean girls. It’s a title that has become common conversation in parenting circles. But the mean girl syndrome is not reserved for Junior High – in fact, it’s happening in Kindergarten.
Relational bullying or the “mean girl syndrome” is affecting girls at a younger age. The mean girl phenomenon used to start around 5th or 6th grade but now we are seeing it as early as first grade. I have seen children excluded from the group for how they dress, their religion and sadly even for their weight. The behavior usually begins as a “secret club” or best friends.
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Many people young and old, male and female, struggle with recognizing their self-worth and their true potential in life. Often we are our worst critics. Most of us would gasp in horror if we heard another person speak out loud the thoughts we tell ourselves because it would be considered abusive!
Recently, as I was speaking to a group of young people and their parents on the topic of self-esteem, we broke down the definition of what self-esteem truly means. This is an interesting concept and I think helpful to break down into segments.
- To esteem something is to hold it in high regard, to treasure it, to value it.
- The self is you, the individual
How amazing it would be to think of your self in this manner. Is it possible to hold yourself in high regard, to value yourself, and to treasure it – i.e. to treasure you, the real you?
As a minor, how much of what I tell a therapist will my parents hear? Recently my parents have discovered I struggle with self-injury. After discovering this, they are going to send me to see a therapist to help with the issue. They, of course, know I struggle with self-injury, but I would prefer if they did not hear about it if I tell the therapist when I self-injure. Is this possible, or is it required that they inform my parents when I cut? As a minor, do I have any confidentiality from my parents?
A: Excellent question and an important concern to bring up in your first session with your therapist. Watch the full answer below.
Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW
I have been struggling with what I believe to be depression for the last year and a half (I have never been diagnosed with depression). I thought it was linked with my hypothyroidism, but even after recieving treatment for it the depression (or what I thought to be depression) still lingers. Should I seek help from a professional or should I simply leave everything as is. (I am desperate for some form of advice because whatever I have has caused many problems at home and in school).
A:Thanks so much for writing in. The answer is yes, you should address the depression. I want to recommend that you talk to your parent or guardian about getting you in for a mental health evaluation. The depression may or may not be linked to your other health problems. Watch the video for additional help.
Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW
A few months ago me and my best friends ex boyfriend (who still cares a lot about her) went to our school guidance councilors and told them how my best friend was suicidal. they told her parents and she had to get an evaluation from a therapist. they cleared her and she was allowed back in school. however now school isn’t in session and she’s suicidal again. I know this because she told me that I’m the only thing keeping her alive. a few years ago she was raped by a close friend and then a few days after the rape walked in on him killing himself. she never dealt with this traumatic event and I think it’s one of the reasons she’s suicidal now. we talked a little about it and she told me she feels like she messes everything up and all she does is make things worse. I tried to show her how that’s not true and how a lot of people care about her but she doesn’t believe me. I don’t want to go to her parents again because I dont think they’d believe me a second time. I want her to get help and talk to someone but I don’t know how to do it. please help me.
A: Thank you for your email. I can feel your concern for your friend through this letter. Even though you might be putting your friendship at risk, I suggest you go talk to her parents. They need to know about the rape and that she walked in on the person who raped her committing suicide. Those are horrific traumas for a teenager to witness and she is in serious danger. Please watch the video response for more tools to handle this painful situation.
Take good care of yourself
Julie Hanks, LCSW
1. Start by teaching them about private parts. Explain the difference between good touch and bad touch. I like to use Your Body Belongs To You! A Coloring & Activities Book . Tell them that no one has the right to touch their private parts and they can say no and tell someone. RadKids Rules
2. It is normal for pre-school aged children to become interested and fascinated with private parts (theirs and others). Use correct medical language, not nicknames, when discussing private parts. Answer questions on a level consistent with their developmental age. (i.e. they don’t need to have anatomy lessons to understand where babies come from, that comes later). Talk to them about your personal and family values. If your child exhibits sexual behavior, it’s important to deal with it without making them feel shame or embarrassment. Here’s a resource with more detailed information and explains the difference between normal and concerning behavior.
3. With school age children, parents need to be more direct regarding sexual abuse and sex education. Some of these resources are may be too direct or differ with your values so it’s important to read before sharing them with your child. The books do not need to be read in entirety you can pick and choose depending on your child’s questions or level of understanding.
How to Talk to Your Child About Sex: It’s Best to Start Early, but It’s Never Too Late- A Step by Step Guide for Every Age
4. Explain maturation before the school’s presentation.
Most public schools present information about maturation in fifth grade. Children are often easily embarrassed at this age, especially boys. Some of them may find it more helpful to be given a book or pamphlets to read. However, if you choose this method make sure you have a follow-up discussion with them and are available for questions. If you are open, non-judgemental and informative it will increase the chances of them coming to you with questions instead of going to their friends. Or maybe I should say coming to you after they have heard incorrect information from their friends.
Puberty for boys: The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need To Know for Group Up You (Boys World Books)
Puberty for girls: The Care and Keeping of You (American Girl)
5. Don’t worry about giving your teen too much information about sex education. Most parents error on not providing enough information because they don’t want to “expose” them. Unfortunately in my practice I see that tweens/teens have already been exposed to it. Parents need to continue to teach their values in a non-judgemental way, focusing on the benefits of living those values. Have frank discussions with them about choices and consequences. Relate it to what their peers are doing, good and bad. I cannot stress the importance of having a strong/bonded relationship prior to having these discussions.
Sex Ed for Teens:
Have you seen the Huffington Post’s live streaming 12 hour a day network called HuffPost Live? It’s an interactive show based on casual conversations about current topics, news, and events – social media TV.
I was invited to participate via webcam in this interview sparked by the death of Helen Girly Brown, the force behind Cosmopolitan Magazine, and offer insight on the impact of Cosmo on young girls from a mother and therapist’s perspective. Click the link above to watch the online interview hosted by Josh Zepps.
It’s estimated that 70-90 percent of parents spank their children, according to Dr. George Holden of Southern Methodist University; in spite of the mounting volume of compelling research that shows physical punishment in all forms is not an effective solution for behavior problems. Spanking and other physical punishment has many unintended negative effects, including poor mental health.
I recently chatted with Nicole Carpenter, founder of MomEntity.com, about ways moms can scale back the number of family activities and prioritize what’s really important. Here are a few of my helpful tips and quotes from the article.
“When moms are frazzled and over-scheduled, the first thing to be neglected is personal self-care — sleep, healthy eating, exercise or meditation/prayer. Moms who neglect their personal needs for a long period of time lead to exhaustion, irritability and impatience with family members.”
“Saying ‘no’ is also important to mother’s mental health. Research published in the Journal of child and Family Studies last month suggests that mothers with an intense parenting style have poorer mental health than mothers with a more laid-back parenting approach. One characteristic of intense parenting is the belief that good moms are always providing stimulation for their children, and I think that belief leads many moms to take on more and more commitments and activities.”