Plastic Surgery as a Means to Avoid Bullying

June 8, 2011

        A few weeks ago NBC’s The Today Show aired a segment on teenagers obtaining plastic surgery as a means to avoid being the target for bullying. Bullying is the new epidemic in the lives of our children and teenagers, with the consequences being deadly in some circumstances. For most children, however, it is a normal part of life and does not greatly affect them in the long term. Whether it is due to prevention of bullying, in reaction to bullying, or to improve their physical appearance, more teens are resorting to plastic surgery.

        Although it may be beneficial for some teenagers, there are a few problems that I see with this trend. Bullying is a fact of life, there is probably no teenager that goes through school without being made fun of, talked about, or teased for one reason or another. If a teen were to get plastic surgery to change their appearance, it is likely they will only be made fun of for something else. One thing specifically that may still make them a target is the fact that they had plastic surgery. Since a lot of teasing is not even based on legitimate reasons, there is no guarantee that the name calling will end due to the surgery either. It is more important to teach our children skills on how to deal with bullies and to help them build their self-esteem, especially since as I stated before, chances are they will just get picked on for something else. Children need to be taught that self-esteem needs to come from within and that who you are on the inside is more important than appearance.

        Another worry when children and teens are requesting plastic surgery is the possibility of a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a disorder in which an individual sees nonexistent flaws with their physical appearance. So if your child insists they need rhinoplasty but everyone believes she’s got the cutest little nose, therapy may be in order. Individuals who have BDD tend to seek plastic surgery for their perceived flaws but are never satisfied afterwards. They find more and more “flaws” to have “fixed”.

       Bottom line is that this is a decision that cannot be made in haste. Take time to think it out, weigh your options and really decide if there is more positives than negatives to obtaining plastic surgery.

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Words Do Hurt

April 12, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

I came across these videos today and since I have been discussing bullying in several blog entries, thought it would be fitting to share them. The first video is of a girl that states she is in the 8th grade and is a victim of bullying. She discusses how the experience has affected her.

This video has inspired and moved a lot of people and some individuals who are a bit older have responded with similar videos. I found this one to have an especially touching and true message.

Bullying affects a lot of teens and although some do come out stronger, some do not come out from the experience at all. If you know someone who is being bullied, do something to help, even if it is just being supportive and loving towards them.

If you are looking for a Brevard County counselor or therapist give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.

http://www.discoveryinstitutepa.com
jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com


Teens and Facebook

April 7, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

       In a previous post I discussed the link between facebook and depression. Parents should especially be on the lookout for signs in their teens for even more reasons than were previously discussed. First, they are at an increased risk of having the social comparison effect impact them due to many teens having lower self esteem. They tend to compare themselves to other people in order to help determine who they are and where they stand socially. Many teenagers get a great deal of their self-worth from social situations, friends, and looks, all which they have a greater risk of finding lacking compared to others due to the networking site.
       An even bigger issue than social comparison, bullying has become a large problem on facebook. No more are the days when individuals were able to escape teasing and other verbal bullying when they were not in the presence of the perpetrator. With facebook making everything public, there is no place to hide. This makes the impact of the bullying even more intense. We have all been hearing on the news about incidents of bullying occurring on this social networking site, including one I mentioned in a previous post about girls posting nude photos stating that they were of someone they actually were not. The effects can be huge for both the victims and the perpetrator in these instances.
       What can you do about this as parents? You need to facilitate open communication with your teenagers. Teens have a habit of not wanting to talk to parents which can make it difficult and the harder that parents push, the less teens want to talk. Let your teens know that you are there to talk about anything that they may need to talk about. Also, try not to be judgmental and they may be willing to talk to you more. It may also be helpful to talk to your teens about some of the incidents in the news. For instance, talk about the incident with the nude photos and be sure to mention all the criminal charges those girls received. Make it an informative instead of a lecturing session and they just may be willing to listen. Teens tend to not realize the gravity of their actions and how it not only affects others but can also affect them.
      If you are looking for a Brevard County counselor or therapist give me a call. My office is located in Rockledge and I would be more than happy to talk with you.

http://www.discoveryinstitutepa.com
jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com


Link Between Bullying and Witnessing Violence

March 31, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.       Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

           For some people, my next suggestion for trying to prevent your child from becoming a bully might be a bit obvious. For other parents, however, this is just not something that we think about or if we do, we don’t realize the impact it can have, as well as how much our children are exposed to this factor. I’m talking about your children viewing aggressive material through different forms of media and in person. If you compare the shows and games that are available and popular now to the ones that were 20 or even just 10 years ago, you will notice that a higher percentage of them are violent now than they were in the past. Because we are inundated with violence, it makes it difficult for many parents to limit the amount that children see.

          No matter how difficult, however, it is important to limit the amount of aggressive behavior your children see. Children should not be watching television shows, movies or cartoons or playing video games that are violent. Although most older children should be able to tell the difference between a movie or game in which people get hurt and there are no consequences and real life, young children and even some older children have a hard time with this. This results in children not fully understanding the impact that violence has on the victim and others. Although we want children to act appropriately due to internal reasons such as knowing it is wrong, this will not be the case for many children, especially younger ones. According to Kohlberg, the biggest factor that keeps children from engaging in immoral behavior is if they believe they will be punished for the behavior. Media does not always show consequences for the aggressive behavior, and when they do, it may not be in a form that is easily recognized and understood by a child. In addition, repeated exposure desensitizes children (and even adults) to violence to the point where it seems commonplace and acceptable.

         Even more important than limiting viewing time of media portrayals of violence is preventing your children from seeing aggressive behaviors in person, especially between parents or other people that the child looks up to. One of the most prominent ways children learn is by example and it is important for your children to be surrounded by positive role models. The more violent behavior your child witnesses within the home and community, the more likely they are to engage in that behavior as well. This link is even stronger than the one between violent behavior in children and media portrayals of violence.

          If you are unable to limit this for whatever reason or the child has already been exposed to aggressive behaviors, talk with the child in order to convey that these behaviors are not acceptable in real life. Talk with children about the consequences of violence to all involved. Make it clear that if your child engages in physically aggressive behavior, there will be consequences for them and let them know what those consequences will be. These consequences should be appropriate in terms of the child’s age and the severity of the behavior and also keep in mind that this punishment should not be physical, such as spanking. It is essential that you follow through with these consequences when your child engages in aggressive behavior so they learn that you mean what you say and for the consequence to have the intended effect of limiting this behavior.

           If you are in the Rockledge area and looking for a counselor I would be happy to talk with you.

www.discoveryinstitutepa.com
jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com


Teaching Children to Handle Emotions Appropriately

March 20, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

         I started this blog series on bullying a few weeks ago and in the mean time, I continue to see on the news and read in magazines and online how bullying is becoming a problem with children at younger and younger ages. Instead of having to worry about this problem only once your children hit the tween or teen years, it is becoming a problem parents are facing with children as young as four years old! How can we make sure that our children are not being mean or aggressive at this young of an age? There are many things that we can do in addition to helping children learn to understand feelings.

            Once children understand emotions, it is important that they learn to deal with negative emotions effectively. Anger and hurt can be very strong emotions but the feelings themselves are not the problem. The way we express and deal with these emotions can be a problem if we do not handle them appropriately, and it is important that both you and you children are aware of this. I say this because when we teach children about emotions, there is always the risk of children misinterpreting our efforts and believing that negative emotions are bad and may lead to children repressing or holding back these feelings.

          Negative emotions may lead to aggressive behaviors in children as they are unable to problem solve how to appropriately handle situations in which their feelings are hurt or they become angry.  We are not born knowing what to do when we feel this way and what may feel good to do when we are upset may not be socially acceptable. Skills must be learned in order to handle social situations and negative emotions in order to get a positive outcome for ourselves and for others. You can help your children learn appropriate ways to handle their emotions by talking to them, and being a good role model.

          When your child becomes upset and acts in an aggressive manner, it is important to talk to them about their behavior. (Remember- it may be best to wait until your child has calmed down in order to talk to them as they won’t be able to listen to you when they are upset.) It does not have to be complicated, a simple statement such as “it is not okay to hit someone when they take your toy, you can tell them to give it back until it is their turn and if they don’t listen, tell me.” Once you have done this a few times, you can begin to ask your children other ways they could handle a situation whether they handled it appropriately or not. Also, give your children praise or some other form of reinforcement when you notice your child handling a situation in a positive way.

         Just as important as talking to your children about dealing with emotions is being a positive role model as social learning (learning by watching others behaviors) may be an even stronger predictor of behavior than talking to them. Make sure you are dealing with your emotions appropriately by not overreacting, yelling, or criticizing when you are angry. If you or someone else loses their patience or reacts negatively in front of your child, be sure to talk to your child about this. Explain that everyone makes mistakes, apologize for your behavior, and discuss other ways to handle the situation.


Developing Empathy in Children- Part 1 Identifying Feelings

March 2, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

       Empathy is the ability to see a situation from another person’s perspective and to understand what they are feeling. This is a skill that not everyone has developed but it is an important one for relationships. The more empathic a person is, typically the kinder they are. This is an important skill for children to learn in order to prevent them from bullying others. There are several things that parents can do in order to help children develop empathy for others.

        Being able to identify feelings in self and others is an important step in developing empathy. Some people take for granted being able to identify how they are feeling and do not realize this is something that needs to be taught. The best way to teach about feelings is to talk about them in your everyday life. Notice the feelings your child is experiencing and name them so they are able to label them in the future. For instance, you see you child working on a puzzle and they begin to pout (or worse) when not being able to get it together and you say to them “You feel frustrated because you can’t find the right puzzle piece.” After doing this for some time you can begin encouraging your child to identify their feelings on a regular basis.

      Once your child is familiar with the different feelings you can begin getting them used to identifying feelings in other people. You can do this by discussing your feelings as well as other family members and friends feelings. This will help them realize that other people have feelings too. It may be easier for children to learn this first from fictional characters. When you read books with your child, you can pause at different points within the book and talk about how each of the characters feel and the reasons for this and also look at the pictures and talk about the feelings based on the facial expressions and body language. It may be helpful to realize that facial expressions for feelings are universal across different cultures!

       More to come on developing empathy in your children in upcoming blog entries. If you are in the Brevard County area and looking for a therapist, please give me a call.

jessicastebbins@discoveryinstitutepa.com
www.discoveryinstitutepa.com


A Bully? Not My Child!

February 27, 2011

Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.      Rockledge, FL
321-631-5538
Serving Brevard County

       I’m not sure which would feel worse, knowing your child is being bullied or knowing that your child is bullying others. Bullying has become a real problem in schools today. It can have life changing consequences not only for those being bullied but for those who are the tormentors. Take for instance the story of Phoebe Prince, who was harassed until she committed suicide on January 14, 2010. Her tormentors face charges including assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of school assembly, and stalking. This story may seem extreme due to the end result being suicide, but how about other stories of bullying, are charges made against teens in other cases? Exactly one year after the suicide of Phoebe Price, it was reported that in Florida two teenage girls received felony charges of aggravated stalking after starting a fake facebook account for another girl and posting a fake nude photo.

            I don’t know anything about the mental health or mental state of these individuals involved in the bullying but assuming they are not psychopaths or sociopaths (which is a real but unlikely possibility) the amount of guilt these individuals will feel may last a lifetime. Anyone who has experienced extreme guilt will know that it can haunt you in your everyday activities. Guilt is not the only thing that will haunt these individuals for the rest of their life. They will also have a reputation that will follow them for some time and legal charges that may not go away. In the state of Florida, juvenile charges can be sealed or expunged, but it is a lot of work to have this done, and depending on what future job the teen would like to have and the security clearance needed, these steps may not prevent their employer from finding out about the incidents. With the popularity of the internet, future employers will be able to find information even by searching the internet if names were released in the event.

            So how can we help to prevent our children from becoming swept up in wanting to improve their social standing or boost their own self-esteem by picking on others? We can start at a young age by helping them to develop empathy for others, help them develop relationship skills, self-esteem, and problem solving skills. More information to come on each of these in future blog entries!

            If you are in the Merritt Island area and looking for a counselor, please give me a call to see if I may be able to help.