Q: Our son just started at a new school, and we're afraid he is being bullied. What can we do?
Jim: Bullying is a rising problem, and "thanks" to technology, it isn't limited to the schoolyard anymore. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
First, don't wait for your son to talk about it. If you sense there's a problem, say, "Is someone picking on you at school?" Some bullies will threaten to harm a child if he tells. Keeping the lines of communication open will assure your son that he's not alone. Also, watch for nonverbal signs of bullying (wanting to stay home, consistently "losing" lunch money, etc.).
Second, take it seriously. It may take every ounce of courage your child has to admit he's being harassed. Younger kids may not have the vocabulary to fully explain what's happening to them. So don't dismiss the severity of their situation out-of-hand.
Third, encourage your child to stick close to friends whenever possible. Being with even one other buddy might deter a bully. Peer support doesn't replace adult intervention, but it can provide an emotional safety net and help restore lost hope.
Finally, take action -- discreetly. Your child may fear that if you make a fuss, it will make things worse. But talk to teachers, school administrators, parents and family friends, so your son has all the resources needed to be safe. You may even consider pulling him from school for a few days until the problem is handled. I'd also recommend visiting with a counselor, so your child can work through any lingering feelings of distress or fear.
If your child has been bullied, we have a staff of professionals available to offer guidance. Call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for more information.
Q: Is there a way to stop my spouse from trying to "fix" my problems and actually start listening to me? I just need to vent from time to time, but whenever I start sharing my emotions, he cuts me off with a list of fixes. I'm not looking for answers -- just a listening ear.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Talking effectively with another person about your feelings and emotions is a delicate art. This is especially true in marriage. Both spouses -- male or female, pragmatic or introspective, "right-brained" or "left-brained" -- have moments when they simply want a partner who's capable of listening instead of offering advice. When this doesn't happen, the relationship can feel unsafe, and the depth of conversation can become shallow and unsatisfying.
If your spouse responds as a problem solver when you're simply venting, thinking out loud or airing your feelings, reply honestly and straightforwardly. Say something like, "When I'm not allowed to finish my sentences, I feel discounted and unimportant to you. What I need is to be heard."
Here are some key principles to keep in mind when talking about feelings:
-- Be respectful when your spouse takes responsibility for his or her emotions and behaviors.
-- Understand that men and women have different communication styles.
-- Develop conflict resolution strategies before attempting to bare your soul.
-- Be intentional about adopting an approach to your conversations that will be nurturing to both of you.
-- Commit yourselves to make your marriage as enjoyable as possible.
All of this sets the stage for safe self-disclosure. What happens next is up to you and your spouse. If you need help sorting it all out and making it work, Focus on the Family's counseling staff would be happy to consult with you and provide a list of professionals in your area who specialize in communication issues. Call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.