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Helping Your Middle Schooler Become More Inclusive

Middle school can be a tough time for children (and parents!) as they transition to adolescence and navigate changes in a variety of areas. One of the biggest challenges in middle school is the social aspect as it often marks a shift toward focus on popularity and cliques, to determine who is “in” and who is “out.” These pressures can create anxiety, confusion, and stress in students, especially if left unspoken. Below are 7 tips to help your middle schooler healthily navigate social changes and become more inclusive.

7 Tips To Help Your Child Become Socially Inclusive:

  1. Learn about your middle schooler’s friendships. Your child is likely to meet new students from other elementary schools, and this can create shifts in friendships. clique teenagersAsk gentle questions, such as “Who did you eat lunch with today?” or “Who would you like to invite over this weekend?” to learn who your child’s friends are. Because friends have an influence in the ideas, activities, and pressures you child may face, knowing who your child is friends with is important.
  2. Become a safe person your middle schooler can confide in about social issues. Fully listening, empathizing, and reflecting what your child confides in you about friendships can help her to see you as a go-to person. Be mindful not to problem solve and criticize right away, as the most important step is that your child feels completely heard and accepted. (Ex. Instead of “Why would your friend do that?! Don’t hang out with her,” try “So I hear you saying that your friend made up a rumor about a classmate. How did you feel about that?”
  3. Help your child problem solve. If your middle schooler confides in you about a friendship issue, empower her by guiding her to problem solve. Ask open ended questions, such as “What do you think is something you can do the next time that happens?”
  4. Help your child think critically. There may be times when your middle schooler talks to you about her classmates that leads you to believe that she is being exclusive. Instead of placing blame or using criticism, ask your child open ended questions to guide her to think critically. Asking questions, such as “Why do you think your friend said that to your classmate? How do you think your classmate felt?”, “How do you feel about that?”, and “What do you think a good friend is?” can help your child think critically without feeling judged.
  5. Emphasize the importance of inclusivity. Take the opportunity to teach your middle schooler about why it is important to be inclusive. Give examples, such as “Spending time with people who are different from you can help you learn new things” or “It is important to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome at school,” and ask for her own examples.
  6. Teach by doing. Encourage your middle schooler to invite a new friend or a classmate who does not have appear to have as many friends over for a play date.
  7. Model the importance of inclusivity. Show your middle schooler that you think it is important to be inclusive by inviting a new co-worker or parent for coffee or lunch. Your modeling of inclusivity can help your child understand and believe in its importance.

What have you tried to help your middle schooler navigate social challenges and become more inclusive? Please share with us!

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Cyber Bullying | How to make sure it doesn’t happen to your child!

Recent media events have highlighted the issue of bullying. A Rutgers University student, for example, committed suicide a few weeks back due to being bullied over the Internet (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/dharun-revi-molly-wei-charged_n_743539.html ).Cyber Bullying Girl Crying

Bullying is nothing new. Older movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club have all featured some form of bullying behavior. The key difference between bullying in the past and present, however, is in the level of anonymity – changes in technology have made bullying much more anonymous over time. Almost every child is on Facebook these days. Anyone can create an account, and the identifying information as to who “owns” the account can often be limited. The impact of cyber bullying has lead to a great deal of emotional harm as well as actual physical harm, as shown by cases like that of the Rutgers University student.

Tips to help decrease the likelihood of your child being “cyber bullied”:

1. You must closely monitor your child’s computer face time. Have a central location for the family’s computer. Keep it in a den or office room that is accessible for all family members.

2. Social media tools, such as Facebook, can serve as a great avenue for social relationships. They are not necessarily a bad thing, and you should not have your children completely avoid such avenues of socialization. However, if your child is using Facebook, it is imperative that you know your child’s login and password. Let your child know that you will be monitoring the Web site to ensure that nothing dangerous is there.

3. If your child is going to be on the site, you must be on the site yourself. Also, one requirement that you would have for your child is that he or she must be your “Facebook friend.” This way you can monitor what information he or she puts on the Web site and what information people are leaving for him or her.

4. If you suspect that someone is bullying your child, the first thing you should do is click the “Report this person” link on that person’s profile screen. This is done anonymously and will lead to an investigation to determine if that individual’s Facebook page should be censured. Also, ask your child to “de-friend” the person and find out what the situation with the bullying was about.

Bullying has always been around and likely will always be around in some format. With the changing of the times and vast improvements in technology, bullying can now be done anonymously and on the Web. Parents, you need not shelter your children from new technological advances; however, you must take these advances into account when you decide howyou monitor your children.

Cliques in Middle School: Dangerous or Healthy?

Even though it feels dangerous to have your middle schooler committed to the rules of a clique, it is an important part of their development of a sense of belonging. If you’re starting to get worried, you might want to get more information before you take action. Do you communicate well with your child? It will be very important to empathize with your child’s desire to fit in with a group as this is a very normal part of their development. Cliques In Middle School

Cliques tend to have strict rules about how to act, who to socialize with, and even what to wear. This can be fun and lead to strong connections with their peers. If you find yourself wondering if it’s gone too far or if you should intervene, first consider your child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors as you determine what kind of impact their friendships are having on their daily life (inside and outside of school). Read more