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Time In with Dr. Tim: Tween teasing? Or dangerous bullying?

January 24, 2014
Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages chief clinical officer

Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages chief clinical officer

My 11-year-old daughter gets teased at school. She is tall for her age, a little overweight and somewhat of a tomboy. She doesn’t fit in with the “cool” girls at school. Frankly, I’m glad because those girls act a lot older than they are and do things that I think girls their age are too young for. Nevertheless, the mean words these girls say and write on Facebook are devastating to my daughter. How can I help her?

This is a tough situation. I’m sorry that your daughter is going through this. Peer problems are normal and a part of growing up. You can help your daughter now and she’ll be a step closer to becoming resilient and more able to handle the emotional storms that grown-up life brings.

First, teasing can be just a nicer word for bullying. You need to talk immediately to your daughter’s teacher, the school counselor, maybe the principal, and see what the situation really is. Schools typically have a no-tolerance policy toward bullying and have ways to help resolve these issues.

Posting negative messages on Facebook or in other social media channels is a type of cyber bullying and has led to tragedy for some teens. It should not be taken lightly. You should talk to the parents of the youth who are posting these messages and get this activity stopped. The parents may not be aware their children are posting negative comments.

It’s important to help your daughter take positive steps. Help her think of positive, encouraging peers she can be friends with at school, in the community or within a religious group. If your daughter has an interest in an extracurricular activity, encourage her to join a school or community group that focuses on this activity. Participation in a positive social activity will increase her self-confidence.

Finally, 11-year-olds are really too young to have Facebook accounts. In fact, Facebook’s user agreement states that kids must be 13 to participate. Children don’t have the maturity to handle inappropriate comments posted on the social media site and don’t fully understand the negative consequences that occur if they post inappropriate comments or photos. Something that may seem funny or cute could embarrass them or hurt the feelings of someone else. Close her account until she is a little older.

Take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your daughter. Give her more time and attention, and one day you two may look back on this event as a positive step toward growing up.

For more information on bullying, visit these websites:
http://www.brightfutures.org/mentalhealth/pdf/families/mc/bullying.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying_factsheet-a.pdf

http://www.stopbullying.gov

Tim Goldsmith, Ph.D., is chief clinical officer at Youth Villages, where he directs a staff of clinical specialists who oversee the work we do with children and families across the country.

Dr. Tim and his core clinical managers have nearly 100 years of experience helping children with the most serious problems. Together they oversee the counselors and specialists who work directly with parents, teaching them ways to help their children overcome serious problems and go on to do well at home, at school and in the community.

This year, our clinical and counseling staff will help more than 22,000 children across the country.

Now Dr. Tim and his staff of experts can answer your questions, too. All parents have moments when they wish they could consult with an expert. If you have a question about your tween or teen’s behavior, send it to DrTim@youthvillages.org.

Read more about Dr. Tim’s experience and credentials here.

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