Don’t stop talking to your kids as they get older. Big ones may be less likely to chat, but it is important to keep talking and listening.
Many big ones are glad their parents and carers make the effort to spend time with them. Communication is more than just asking about what your kid has been doing; it’s also asking about what they’ve been thinking and feeling.
Things to think about
Older ones can get very upset and emotional because they are growing and changing and practising to be an adult; they want to be heard, understood and accepted.
Let your older one know you will listen and try to understand their point of view, without putting them down or trying to control them. Even when there are arguments, listening to your older ones is good because it gives them a chance to tell you what is bothering them.
If an agreement cannot be reached, older ones are still more likely to do what their parents and carers want if their parents and carers listen to them.
Regular yarning with your older ones helps them to know they can come to you about; both good and bad things that may happen.
Some older ones have a hard time with anger and upset feelings and keep their feelings inside. You can help your older ones to learn that anger is a normal emotion and that it needs to be dealt with safely.
Yarning with your older ones
It can be hard when parents and carers try to talk about an issue with their older one and he or she won’t talk about it. If you can, find times and ways to talk about it before it gets worse.
Try going for a drive or a walk with them so you can talk ‘shoulder to shoulder’.
You could try yarning about things like bullying when you see bullying in a movie or on TV. You could try to yarn about better ways of solving issues than using violence or bullying.
If your older one doesn’t want to talk, sometimes it is helpful to back off for a while and give them a chance to think it over. A few days later, you can try to start the yarn again. Be patient with them and they will open up more easily.
Although it may be harder to get boys to open up, parents and carers should try to yarn with their sons just as much as their daughters.
What’s worrying older ones?
Family and partner relationships were the two most frequently raised concerns for Aboriginal young people contacting Kids Help Line from 2001 to 2006, followed closely by peer relationships and then bullying.
Most of the calls about family relationship worries from young people were about issues with parents and brothers and sisters, extended family and friends. In many calls young people said they did not know who to talk to in their community. They were also concerned that talking with an adult would not help, or would make things worse.
There were also many calls about relationship issues, such as violence and relationship breakdowns.
The most common calls about friendship and bullying were about being left out of their friendship groups. There were also many calls about a friend who was being bullied or ongoing issues with friends they couldn’t sort out.
Relationships with families
Older ones learn much from watching people they love. Many parents and carers say they want their kids to spend as much time with the family as the parents and carers did when they were younger.
As kids grow up they start to think more about ‘who they are’ and ‘where they fit in’. It is also a time when they are developing skills for successful relationships. By mixing with other kids their own age they learn new social skills.
Things to think about
Older ones and their friends
Friends play an important role in how older ones cope at school. Young people need friends to share both the fun times and the tough times. As your kids get older their friends become more important to them. They will turn more to their friends to discuss troubles, feelings, fears and doubts.
Friendship and bullying
Older ones who have good friends cope best with stress and situations in their lives because they have a caring group of people to turn to. Older ones with a good group of friends are less likely to be bullied than those with few friends.
Sometimes older ones think they have to join their friends who tease and bully other students. Families, schools and community groups can all help your older ones learn that they don’t have to join in if their friends are hurting other students.
Friendships are very important to older ones
How can I help my older ones make friends?
Yarning with your older ones about bullying
It is important to yarn about bullying with your older ones. Yarning with a person they trust and look up to will help them form their own opinions and beliefs about bullying. They will also feel more comfortable telling you if they are being bullied.
Many older ones won’t want to tell anyone they are being bullied. But there are some things they might do or say that can be taken as warning signs.
What are some possible signs that your older ones are being bullied?
The signs include:
What should I do if my older one is being bullied?
It is natural for parents and carers to feel upset and want to protect their kid if he or she is being bullied. However, an upset parent can cause the older ones more distress and can make them stop telling you if they are being bullied.
How should I respond?
What can I do to help?
What to tell older ones to do at school if they are bullied
How to help older ones deal with arguments
Yarning with your kids about teasing
A person is teasing when they stir-up someone, either in a playful or an unkind way. Sometimes people tease in a fun way and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
Other times people tease in a mean way that upsets or hurts the feelings of the other person. Teasing becomes bullying if the person being teased is hurt by it and cannot stop it from happening. Mean teasing, jarring or chipping is when someone:
Sometimes people don’t realise their teasing is bullying; they think what they are doing is ‘just having fun’, ‘joking’ or ‘messing around’.
How can I help my teenager deal with teasing and hurtful comments?
Teasing, jarring, chipping and other hurtful comments are the most common form of bullying. Parents and carers can help their older ones deal with hurtful comments by suggesting these actions:
How can I help my teenager stop teasing?
You can also help stop your kids doing hurtful teasing, jarring and chipping by listening and responding to what they say about others. Talk with your older ones if you hear them saying bad things about other kids or carrying yarns. Use a calm voice and say something like:
The way you speak about body shapes, sizes, skin colour can affect your kids’ attitudes about appearance. Encourage your kids by example to say positive things about people.
Helping your older one to not bully
Yarn with your older ones about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not (e.g. ‘We shouldn’t tease or carry yarns about people because they look different.’).
Work with your family to establish rules about how to treat other people and each other. Yarn about friendship and help your older ones to make friends.
Encourage your older ones to invite their friends over for visits and make their guests feel welcome. Improve your older one’s self-esteem by encouraging him or her to have a go at new activities and to think about their skills in a realistic way.
Yarning about cyber bullying
Mobiles, text messages, emails, websites
Another way of bullying has come about due to new technology: this is called ‘cyber’ bullying. Almost all calls in Australia can be traced to the phone that made them!
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying, like other forms of bullying, is about relationships, power and control. If someone is harassing your kid on line, you can block emails and instant messages from that specific screen name. Be aware that people can easily change names; if harassment continues, contact the Police.
Some tips for your older ones to help them deal with all forms of cyber bullying:
Yarning with your older ones about bystanders
Bystander graphic adapted from Erceg and Cross (2004). Friendly Schools and Families Project: Classroom Teaching & Learning, Handbook Level 5. Child Health Promotion Research Unit: Edith Cowan University, Western Australia.
Things to think about
When older ones were asked what stops them from helping people who are bullied, the most common answers were, “It’s none of my business” or “I didn’t want to get involved”.
When asked if they wanted the bullying to stop, most said, “I don’t like to see people being bullied”. Most young people don’t like the bullying but are not sure if they should help. And they often don’t know what to do to help the person being bullied.
Your older one might ask you, “If I am just watching the bullying and I am not involved, how can I be encouraging the bullying?” The answer is, “Having people to watch makes people who bully feel powerful and the centre of attention. By paying attention to the person bullying, you are giving them what they want and that encourages them to keep bullying.”
If your older one sees someone being bullied, they could: