In an article we wrote last week called Are we too PC? we touched on the need to reinforce our children’s self esteem and help them to become resilient. This week, we’d like to explore this idea a little further thanks to a guest blog from Simon Andrews – Principal Psychologist at Optimistic Kids. This is a true cyber bullying case about an Australian boy who experienced cyber bullying, with a positive outcome.
Luke was an 11-year-old boy, not at all gifted at sport, however extremely good with computers and solid academically. Even though he was not the most popular boy at school he facilitated an internet chat room for his classmates that was much frequented in the hours after school.
Unfortunately a group of kids at school began using the chat room as a forum for cyber bullying Luke. As moderator of the chat room this placed him in a very difficult position. The chat room was outside of school hours and not directly to do with the school and yet the bullying was being perpetrated by children who attended his school. It was obvious that the situation was not going to be resolved swiftly.
Needless to say that the situation was extremely stressful for Luke and he needed some strategies to help him get through to the other side of this large adversity. Luke’s skills of resilience and optimism were initially very low.
He tended to blame himself for the situation, in spite of there being no evidence that he had in any way upset these children. He also believed that this situation would never come under control and that he would have to give up his role as moderator and even as participant in the very chat room that he facilitated.
At his worst moments he believed that he would even have to leave his school.
Through teaching him the skills of resilience and encouraging him to apply them both at home and at school he was able to cope with this difficult situation over the course of the three months that it took to resolve.
Luke was taught real-time resilience in which he was able to apply accurate resilient thoughts to challenge and replace the many and varied negative thoughts that were entering his head and controlling his feelings.
In this way he was able to come up with rational alternative thoughts that reduced his level of distress to a point where he was able to get through his school day.
He was also able to see that this situation would ultimately be brought under control given a combination intervention by Optimistic Kids, the school and some supportive and assertive parents (his own parents and some of those of the children from the chat room).
Luke’s parents were also instrumental in fostering at home the resilient and positive attitudes that he was being taught by Optimistic Kids and coaching him in being more assertive with other children.
Luke’s story is more common than we would like it to be, and it provides a picture of a child whose school life could have gone either of two ways - either leaving school with a potential descent into depression and be a target for further bullying, or being able to remain at his school and use this as an opportunity to build resilience and some of the thinking skills that would serve him well into the future.
Seven years after this situation took place I received a phone call from Luke, extremely concerned about a good friend of his.
Luke was studying at a university interstate, having continued through to the completion of his secondary schooling with very good marks at his original school. In his university friend he had observed some of the old thinking patterns and behaviours that he had experienced when he was going through the cyber-bullying.
He was concerned that his friend was not coping well, and may end up leaving university. He wanted to know where he could get resilience training for his friend.
It was extremely pleasing and reassuring to see that not only had Luke continued to use his resilience and optimism skills over the course of the seven years since I had first met him, but that he was also able to identify a potential problem in his friend and take assertive action to deal with it.
Once learnt, the skills of resilience and optimism can be used to give children positive attitudes for life.
If you’d like more information about resilience training visit Optimistic Kids. Or if your child has experienced cyber bullying, we’d love to hear what worked for you or what you learnt from the experience below.
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