Q: We recently moved, and we're afraid our son is being bullied at his new school. Do you have any advice?
Jim: Unfortunately, bullying isn't limited just to the schoolyard anymore. "Thanks" to technology (especially "social" media), it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. The only remedy is to expose it for what it is.
First, if you sense there's a problem, don't wait for your son to talk about it. Ask: "Is someone picking on you at school?" Bullies often threaten to harm a child if he tells. Strong lines of communication will assure your son that he's not alone. And watch for nonverbal signs of bullying (wanting to stay home, consistently "losing" snack/lunch money, etc.).
Second, take it seriously. It could take every ounce of courage your child has to admit he's being harassed. Younger kids might not have the vocabulary to fully explain what's happening to them. So don't minimize or dismiss the severity of their situation.
Third, encourage your child to stick close to friends whenever possible. The presence of even one 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, discreetly take action. Your child may fear that things will just get worse if you make a fuss. But talk to teachers, school administrators, parents and family friends -- anyone you can to ensure your son has the resources needed to feel safe. You might even consider pulling him from school for a few days until the problem is handled.
I'd also strongly recommend visiting with a counselor so your child can work through any lingering feelings of fear. Our staff counselors would be happy to help you get started and offer referrals to a local therapist. Call 855-771-HELP (4357) or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com for more information.
Q: My wife and I are always arguing. You name it: chores, money, sex, kids, work -- everything. Neither of us want to argue, and we're not sure how we got here -- but we can't seem to help ourselves. What's going on?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: Maybe you've heard the phrase: "The issue isn't the issue." What that means in this context is that regardless of what you and your spouse are arguing about, the conflict is likely rooted in one of five underlying issues:
Power and control. This struggle typically reveals itself in arguments over plans, preferences or (often) finances. Conflict is inevitable when both spouses are vying for control in some area or when one is trying to prevent the other from taking control.
Lack of respect. This happens when there's a disregard for key differences in personality, individuality or gender -- or when the feelings, rights or decisions of one spouse are ignored. Attempts to manipulate fall into this category.
Distance. When spouses are unavailable physically or emotionally, disharmony is likely. Sometimes one spouse will put up emotional walls for perceived self-protection. That can create feelings of rejection and abandonment for their mate.
Distrust. Conflict thrives here. If a relationship doesn't feel safe, suspicion and distrust can flare up and spouses may no longer feel comfortable expressing their feelings or needs.
Unmet Needs. An unmet need may revolve around attention, communication, time, money, empathy or love. It can occur intentionally or inadvertently. When needs are minimized or overlooked in a marriage, resentment and hurt often lead to conflict.
So the question is: What underlying issues are at the heart of your conflicts? If you can begin to identify and discuss these things together, you'll stand a much better chance of resolving them when they arise in your marriage.
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.
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