It can be hard to keep track of what’s happening in your child’s life. Trying to navigate the fine line between being a good parent and being a helicopter parent isn’t always easy. It’s important to make sure that your child is being safe and feels safe both on and offline. Here are some tips on how to stay connected to your children.
Get Back to the Basics: Staying Connected Where it Counts
- Continue to foster a relationship with your child: It’s important to develop a relationship with your child early on. As they grow, you want your child to feel comfortable turning to you — and not just as a last resort. Spend time with your kids and try to find some common ground.
- Don’t take “fine” for an answer: “How was school?” typically elicits Fine as an answer. Try asking more specific questions like: Who did you sit with at lunch? Who did you play with at break? What did you draw in art? Then it won’t seem strange when you occasionally ask more targeted questions like, Do you ever feel left out? Just remember that it’s supposed to be a conversation, not an interrogation!
- Experiment with different times to talk: After a full day of classes and activities with friends, your child might not be in the mood for a long conversation, much less a heart-to-heart. Rather than forcing one every afternoon or evening, test out other times and places.
- Bring bullying to the dinner table: Initiate a casual conversation about bullying every so often. Start by talking about something in a movie or the news and then ask if your child has ever seen similar behaviour at school. If you are open about bullying, your child may feel more comfortable bringing it up.
- Raise upstanders, not bystanders: Whenever and however bullying does come up in conversations at home, encourage your child to take action. Instead of focusing on confronting the bully, urge them to support the bullying victim. Help your child empathize with the victim by asking how he would feel if he had been the target and come up with ways for him to help the victim.
- Create a network: Stay in the loop by exchanging information with other adults. Ask a babysitter or aunt if she’s noticed a change in behaviour. Or check with his best friend’s mom to see if she’s heard anything strange.
Here are some common signs to help you recognize if your child is being bullied:
- Is reluctant or refuses to go to school
- Clams up when you try to discuss school
- Asks to change a long-standing routine, like riding the bus to school or going to the park on Saturdays
- Doesn’t want to participate in after-school activities or play with old friends
- Seems hungrier than usual after school – could signify that someone is stealing his lunch money or that he doesn’t want to eat in the cafeteria
- Shows signs of physical distress such as headaches, stomach-aches, or nausea
- Goes to the nurse in order to avoid going to class
- Performance in school (grades, homework, attendance) suddenly declines
- Acts sullen, angry, and frequently wants to be left alone
- Uncharacteristically uses bad language
- Shows marked behaviour change after computer time or a phone call
- Has unexplained bruises or injuries
Supervised Web Surfing
For children, the digital world is like one huge playground, where they innocently flirt, share secrets, get help with homework — and sometimes bully. Here are some tips to help you manage your kids online:
- Monitor that technology: Remind your child that technology is not a right. It’s a privilege and a responsibility. Your child should understand that you won’t spy on him, but you will have access to his computer and his phone — in case you need it.
- Ask about his privacy settings: If your child alters his privacy settings to exclude you, don’t attempt to circumnavigate the obstacle. Talk to him about how he uses the technology and why he doesn’t want you in that space.
- Establish rules of use: Tell your children that it is never okay to tease or gossip about other children. Also, make sure they understand that mean words can’t be erased online – and are easily spread and “overheard.”