Kindness and connection to intimidating schools
Recently, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, President of the Child Mind Institute, was interviewed on NBC’s The Today Show on “Kids Under Pressure, Helping Students Cope with Anxiety, Stress and Fear”. In the interview, he pointed out something that many parents and teachers recognize. Negative emotions and even full-blown depression and anxiety are on the rise across the country, and we are seeing the impact on children.
This month, Las Cruces public schools are embarking on a campaign to prevent bullying. In doing so, we need to recognize that a child who exhibits hurtful behavior towards others is struggling with difficult environmental, emotional or behavioral issues that are likely magnified in this time of increased social media use and social media. isolation.
As we engage in schools and the wider community to promote health and wellness, and more specifically to prevent bullying, we would be remiss if we did not consider and address the root causes of problematic behaviors, many of which are are rooted in mental health.
The increase in difficult feelings mentioned by Dr Koplewicz in his interview is attributed by many experts to the overuse of online platforms. The epidemic addiction to the use of social media in wealthy countries around the world causes a false sense of connection and ultimately loneliness. While there is a sense of connection on social media, there is also a strong disconnect with the social norms and responsibilities that come with connecting in person.
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All of this can contribute to the time wasted in the day browsing online, the sadness and a sense of anonymity that leads young people and adults to say and do things by texting or direct messaging or through internet. messages they would never do in person. To support mental health and healthy interpersonal behavior, let’s all commit to reducing our time spent online.
While it is unrealistic to think that electronic means of communication will disappear for our children, it is possible to teach them healthy and caring behavior online. When our kids are on their devices, I want two questions to resonate in their minds. First, “Would I / say / watch / post this if my mom was going to see it?” Second, “Would I tell someone standing in front of me what I’m about to send in a group chat or instant message?” We can teach our children that if the answer is no, don’t send this message. Don’t get into this nasty group chat. When you are online, be nice.
In today’s world, it is difficult for many children to know what to do without electronic devices when they have free time. The second strategy I suggest is to involve our kids in as many in-person activities that promote mentoring and direct connection as possible. If they’re busy with clubs, sports, city hobbies, or family time, it’s less time spent nurturing the tech-hungry part of their brain that fuels the loneliness and anxiety mentioned above. above. Loving, strong relationships and the time spent connecting face-to-face around enjoyable shared activities is the antidote to that void of agitation and annoyance that many feel when not plugged into their phones.
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Finally, increased connection and reduced screen time are not the panacea. There is a difference between situational feelings of depression and discontent and serious mental illness. When kids act hurtfully, when they feel so downcast that they can’t sleep or eat well, or when their anxiety overcomes nervousness and prevents them from doing things that would normally bring them pleasure, it’s time. to seek help. Treating the underlying mental health issues will not only help reduce harmful behavior towards others, but it will also help protect the child from bullying. Children who are confident in themselves, who are well connected to strong adult role models, and who have healthy circles of friends are simply more difficult to bully and are more likely to stand up for someone who is being bullied. and report it.
Ultimately, while talking about bullying prevention and mental health care is essential, it is imperative for the overall success of our children to reduce screen time and replace those hours with active activities. healthy, connected and pleasant person.
Amy Himelright, LPCC is Director of School Board and Behavioral Health for Las Cruces Public Schools. She can be contacted at [email protected]