Mental Health

Parents: How to set the emotional tone

It’s easy to understand why we feel distressed when our child is upset: we want desperately to help, we wish the situation were different, or neither we nor our child is in an ideal position to cope with the emotions at hand. Sometimes, we find our pulses racing, our emotions churning, and our voices raising when our children are not exactly in control. 

Children benefit from being shown another option during moments of dysregulation.  This is called setting the emotional tone.  

In order for your child to get from enraged to a mindset of protesting and problem solving, a few things have to happen, but overall, you are creating a space where they can begin to mirror your volume, language, behavior, attitude, and body language to reset. 

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Family Meditation

Have you tried Meditating with your child?
Research says, give it a go!

Some of the benefits include:

  • Teaches them how to take full, controlled breaths.
  • Promotes calmness and relaxation.
  • Improves their focus and attention span.
  • Enhances self-awareness.
  • Improves mood and energy level.
  • Promotes mental clarity.
  • Provides a positive experience for parent and child.

Why not give it a try? Check out our previous post on Meditation to help get you and your family started!  

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Meditation, getting started


We all know we should do it. 

But why? 

And how do we get started? 

There are endless health benefits associated with regular meditation. 

Below are just a few great ones!


Meditation can reduce stress, control anxiety, improve emotional health, enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span, reduce age-related memory loss, help cultivate gratitude, improve mood, help release attachments and/or addictions and more. 


How to get started: 

  • Location is important- find a safe quiet space.
  • Start in a comfortable seated posture with legs crossed or straight out in front of you. 
  • It may help to sit on top of a cushion or yoga block. 
  • Align your posture by sitting up, allow your shoulders to roll back and down, slight tuck of the chin to align the cervical spine, and close your eyes. 
  • Place both hands to your belly to draw awareness to the breath. 
  • Taking deep inhales though the nose, feel the belly rise and deep exhales from the mouth, feel the belly fall. 
  • Continue even inhales to even exhales. 
  • Focus on the breath: the sound and the sensation. 
  • There is no wrong way of meditating. 

Consistency is key! 

Start with 5 minutes per day. Same time of the day is helpful.



What’s the difference? Physician Assistant vs Nurse Practitioner

Health care delivery has undergone significant changes in the last few decades. The need for cost-effective care skyrocketed along with the number of people living with chronic illness demanding access to care. At times it has been said that individuals trained as a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant are interchangeable as medical providers. While many hospital systems may hire Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants to fill similar roles, the training and licensure of each program prepares the clinician to practice in a different way. 

The Physician Assistant profession was created in the mid 1960’s to meet the growing demand for access to health care, specifically access to primary care providers. Duke University Medical Center offered the first official program training individuals to provide medical care as a Physician Assistant based on the “fast track” programming for individuals trained to provide medical care during World War II.

Nursing pioneers were up to similar work across the country in Colorado, as the first Nurse Practitioner program was developed in 1965 at The University of Colorado to meet the growing demand for primary care providers in that region of the country. Many of the early Nurse Practitioner’s were trained in certificate programs through hospital systems and universities before formal Master’s Programs were developed.

The foundational training of a Registered Nurse, including hours of clinical experience, sets the Nurse Practitioner apart from the track Physician Assistants take.

The primary differences in training for a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practitioner is found within the names of each. A Physician Assistant is trained similarly to a physician, under the medical model after completing the following requirements:

  • Bachelors Degree (GPA above 3.0)
  • Program Pre-requisite courses 
  • GRE or MCAT (program specific)
  • 1 year clinical experience in a healthcare setting.

Once admitted, PA programs focus on a comprehensive general medical education in addition to the clinical experiences. Most PA programs are over 100 credit hours completed in 2 years. The different Master of Health Sciences curriculums provides PA students with depth of knowledge in the basic medical sciences and clinical medicine, as well as skills in administration and research.

PA programs today are Master’s level programs with both didactic and clinical experiences that prepare individuals to take the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam or “PANCE” exam, achieving the certification designation of PA-C and opportunity to move on to state licensure. PA Certifications in subspecialty areas are available including in Mental Health/Psychiatry, this is achieved by completing the PA Certificate of Added Qualifications (PA-CAQ) clinical experience and passing the exam.

What is important to remember is that both PA and APRN programs support clinical care that is evidence based and held to standards at the state licensure and national certification levels.

Nurse Practitioners are first and foremost nurses. They are trained in the nursing model to practice the art and science that is nursing. They are licensed to practice as an RN prior to continuing their education in Nursing to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Graduate level nursing programs require the following:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program (GPA 3.0-4.0)
  • RN license in good standing with the state
  • GRE entrance exam 
  • 1-2 years Nursing Experience (programs vary)

Nurse Practitioners are trained at Master’s or Doctoral levels (depending on the program or specialty) as well as must sit for their specialty’s board certification exam and meet the licensure requirements for their state. Nurse Practitioner’s can sit for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam. Master of Science in Nursing programs can be completed in 18 months while Doctor of Nursing Programs and PhD Nursing programs are completed between 3 – 5 years depending on full or part time course work. These advanced nursing programs range from 70 – 100 credit hours. 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a Clinical Degree that prepares the Advance Practice Nurse to translate research evidence into nursing practice, understand and contribute to healthcare policy (including budgets, financial management, leadership theory), as well as cultivating practice expertise in their specialty. APRNs are independent licensed providers and required to sit for board certification in their specialty.

The role of the nurse practitioner can differ somewhat depending on the state in which the APRN is practicing. Certain states allow work to be completely independent, whereas others require them to work in a collaborative agreement with a Physician. The State of Florida requires APRN’s to practice with a collaborative agreement and general supervision from a physician or dentist. Nurse Practitioners are independent prescribers for non-controlled substances, after 2 years of practice experience in the State of FL APRN’s are eligible for their DEA License and prescriptive rights for both controlled and non-controlled substances.


Elizabeth Winings, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC

At the Retreat PVB we have Elizabeth Winings, DNP, APRN as our Director of Nursing. She is ANCC board certified as a Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. After completing her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at The University of Florida in 2011 and a 1-year surgical nurse residency program through the VA Hospital in Gainesville, FL she transitioned to community based care as an emergency room nurse for 2 years. These experiences inspired her to pursue advanced training in mental health and nutrition. She completed her Masters of Science in Nursing at the University of Florida in 2013 and began practicing as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in Jacksonville in the spring of 2014, initially at The UF Health Department of Psychiatry in their outpatient adult, child and adolescent clinic. She transitioned to join the team at Nemours Specialty Clinic in the fall of 2015 where she was able further specialize in the care of children and adolescents in the outpatient setting as well as on the inpatient Behavioral Health Unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. While working as a Nurse Practitioner, Dr. Winings continued her education as well as specialized in Plant Based Nutrition through Cornell University and completed a 300 hour internship in Lifestyle Medicine at The True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. She completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice through UF in 2016. Dr. Winings grew up in Jacksonville and is honored to bring her passion for nursing, wellness, and mental health to the community of Ponte Vedra Beach and surrounding areas. Come experience the personalized care of a Nurse Practitioner at The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach!

Psychology vs. Psychiatry

What type of healthcare professional should you seek when you have mental health concerns? Should you look for a psychiatrist or a psychologist? For many people, the answer to this question is a difficult one. Unless you are in the medical field or know someone who is, there’s a good chance you don’t know the difference between the two. We thought it would be great to highlight the differences between these two specialties for families looking for mental health care.

Before we compare and contrast the two professions, we should acknowledge the fact that you are seeking help, which is the most essential step in treating any issues you might have.

Psychologists and psychiatrists share a common goal to help people feel better.

Both are typically trained to practice psychotherapy — talking with patients about what is bothering them. The differences in background and training leads to various approaches to addressing mental health needs. Each clinician’s aim is to provide you with the means to manage the issues in your everyday life by talking through challenges and discovering solutions.

Here are the main differences between psychiatrists and psychologists:

  • Psychiatrists are Medical Doctors (MDs) who’ve graduated from a 4-year medical school after completing a 4-year-college degree. They complete an additional 4-years of Medical Specialty Residency. They are trained to diagnose and treat individuals with mental health disorders. This is a total 12 years of training. Psychiatrists who sub-specialize go on to complete 1 – 2 years of Fellowship Training in areas such as Child Psychiatry, Addiction, Geriatric Psychiatry, Consult-Liaison Psychiatry, and Forensic Psychiatry.
  • Psychologists, on the other hand, are not medical doctors. They’ve earned a doctoral degree such as a P.hD. in related areas or Psy.D. in a selected area of psychology, which focuses on the study of personality development, the history of psychological problems, and the science of psychological research.

Therefore, the two are prepared to diagnose and treat their patients differently.

Psychiatrists—being trained medical doctors—have the authority to write prescriptions for medication while psychologists, in most states, do not. Many Psychiatrists, in the era of managed care, spend the majority of their time on medication management. Traditionally, psychiatrist received training in psychotherapy, also. Psychologists spend most of their time either performing psychological testing or conducting psychotherapy to treat patients.

Psychotherapy—or “talk therapy,” as it is sometimes referred to—can “help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and can increase well-being and healing,” according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Coming from the medical background, psychiatrists typically consider your genetic, biological, and medical history. Psychiatrists are uniquely trained to formulate a possible diagnoses and rule out causes of mental disorders due to other medical issues. People experiencing a significant impact on the body—and daily life activities from mental illness are well served by a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are trained to listen for the signs and symptoms of particular neurochemical alterations, just the way a conductor can pick out the contribution of the violin amongst the symphony.

The field of mental health eliminates the division between the mind-body connection. So a person who is suffering can benefit from both a psychologist and/or a psychiatrist who often work together to treat patients.

At The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach, our psychiatrist is Theresa Randazzo-Burton, MD, who provides exceptional personalized psychiatric care.

Dr. Theresa Randazzo-Burton

Dr. Burton, is a Board-Certified Adult and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, who finished her training at UMASS in 2008. She completed years of supervision in individual, group, and family therapy. Her training and experience in cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy sets her practice apart from most contemporary psychiatrists. While practicing from 2008 until 2014 at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC on a 60-bed psychiatric unit (for ages 7 and up), she honed her psychopharmacology skills treating patients requiring the highest levels of care. Moving to the Jacksonville area in 2014, she joined the fantastic team of doctors at Nemours Specialty Clinic, most frequently overseeing the Psychiatric Care for Children on the Behavioral Health Unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. As a resident and a parent in Ponte Vedra Beach, Dr. Burton is dedicated to bringing her passion for psychiatric care to this community at The Retreat PVB.

Dr. Burton has created a welcoming office for her clients

The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach is a Child Psychiatry and Family Wellness Center for those looking for mental health care for themselves or their children in a comfortable and relaxed setting. We don’t look like any doctors office you have ever seen. Experience the difference individualized care in a stigma-free environment can make in your life. You can read more about our entire team on our website: click here

Mindful Minute

The Grove studio at The Retreat PVB welcomes you to set all your other tasks asides and let your body lead you through a series of warming, opening and strengthening poses. I teach a combination of balancing hatha, warm and powerful vinaysa yoga. At the Grove you can expect intimate classes tailored to your energy level and physical needs.

FUN FACT: Our sedentary lifestyles tend to shorten the tissues of the hamstrings and hips. During class, we will focus on opening and releasing trigger points in target areas such as the hamstrings, hips, shoulders and low back.

The Grove studio also welcomes your kids! Our kid yoga is designed to develop strength, flexibility, balance and focus. I create a fun sequence of yoga poses and finish with breath work and meditation. Guaranteed your child will leave with an improved mood, excited to return!

Yoga goes beyond the physical practice; it helps balance the chaos of everyday life. Eventually, the peace from your yoga practice will carry over into your daily routines and interactions.

As an instructor, I believe movement is medicine, and paired with breath, a powerful healing tool. Yoga is not about achieving certain physical posture; in fact, everyone’s yoga practice should look slightly different. We all have different bodies within different environments. Yoga is about going inside, by letting go of any expectations and listening to what your body needs.

-Madison Tormey

Madison Tormey is certified instructor of Vinyasa, Hatha and Yin Yoga. She also has her CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification, which allows her to teach both individual and group functional fitness classes. Madison studied at Stetson University in Deland, Florida where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Health Sciences. Madison played 4 years of Division I Beach Volleyball at nationally ranked, Stetson University. Today, she attends University of North Florida, pursuing a second Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Soon she will complete clinical training to receive her license as a Registered Dietitian. Her passion is preventative medicine, through the integration of contemporary and alternative techniques. Madison’s strong background in fitness and wellness has inspired her to lead others to optimal health and functioning through everyday choices like exercise and nutrition.
Beach Tree - Sunset

World Suicide Prevention Day




Join me, today and everyday, in the fight to prevent suicide. The battle is here in our community and we all need to reach out to those who are suffering with life threatening emotional pain. Suicidal thoughts should never be dismissed or minimized. They always represent a treatable condition. Any emergency room in the country can direct someone to the care they need. If you are worried about someone, speak up, get help, don’t wait. Let’s get rid of stigma and become beacons of hope.

Dr. Burton-Dr. Burton

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Suicide Resource Center has valuable information for families: ACCAP Family and Youth Resources

American Heritage and Psychiatry

Common Messages to Help us Navigate the Crisis at the Border

The ideals around which we have founded this nation and raised our families are dear to all of us.  We are fortunate to have been born in a nation where we can raise our children in relatively safe and secure communities and change our situation, station, or life when we choose.  When people around the world long for this freedom for their children they may make the choice to leave their land and journey to the United States of America. History has given us direction and psychiatry has given us understanding about how we can form and maintain a rich and diverse melting-pot as a nation.  

“…Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Emma Lazarus 1883

American Heritage

In the 1860s, French anti-slavery activist Edouard de Laboulaye suggested that France gift of the
statue, “Liberty Enlightening the World” to commemorate the alliance between the U.S. and France during the American Revolution and the end of slavery in the U.S. after the Civil War. In order to raise money to construct the monument’s base, the poet, Emma Lazarus wrote the famous sonnet “The New Colossus” for a Statue of Liberty fundraiser in 1883.  Concurrently, the “Great Wave of Immigration” had begun and between 1880 and  1920, 23.5 million persons immigrated to the U.S..  The poet was inspired by her experiences with Russian Jews detained by immigration officials on Ward Island and included a new facet of liberty in her interpretation of what the statue could mean. In the years since, though the statue would take on many additional layers of meaning, the link between it and immigration  solidified. 

America is a nation of immigrants, but we have struggled with our identity.  My own  family came to the United States in 1966 from a small town in Italy, looking for a better life, hoping to find the “American dream”.  Many of you have stories of immigration, renewal, hope, and pride going back just a generation or so. We are the beneficiary of what freedom and opportunity has to offer.   This is the America where we are raising children together with the values we want to uphold. It is hopeful to believe in our commitment to liberty, justice, and freedom for all. It can be difficult to conceptualize that this same invitation is not extended to everyone.    

We have always returned to the vision that the U.S. shall be a place of refuge in the World.  However, in May 2018, the U.S. began  enforcing a “zero-tolerance policy” to prosecute anyone crossing the border, including those who may seek asylum.  This policy determines that families apprehended at the border be separated, with parents being contained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and children being sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is estimated that 658 children were separated from their parents in May.  

We have misinterpreted fundamental concepts of helping others, building alliances, and protecting our future when we do harm to those least able to care for themselves.  Children coming to the United States from Northern Latin America are traumatized, depleted and most vulnerable. They are fleeing a degree of danger and violence that is difficult for U.S citizens to understand, because despite our struggles, most of us can access safety and justice when we need it. It is important to understand the meaning and impact of the policy separating children from their parents.

The Consequences of Separating Children from Parents:

Disrupted Attachments

In psychiatry we use the term attachment to describe the secure structure of a relationship between a child and caregiver. It is the portal through which the child learns to experience him/her self, others, and the world around them. The quality of the attachment translates into how the child relates and reacts to everything in ways that both subtle and overt. When the attachment is disrupted, the ripples into the child’s development and future and significant.

A healthy attachment is described as a reciprocal, enduring, emotional connection between a child and his/her primary caregiver(s). This develops from care that is attuned and responsive to the child’s physical and emotional needs. A secure attachment is an essential building block of cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Characteristics such as empathy, capacity to love, and inhibition of aggression are all related to a child’s sense of secure attachment in the world.

When this attachment is disrupted through a variety of circumstances such as the abrupt loss of or extended separation from a parent, child abuse or neglect, the child is at risk of attachment related problems.

Attachment Related Problems:

Problems with Interpersonal Relationships:

  • lack of trust in caregivers or adults in positions of authority
  • resistance to nurturance or guidance
  • difficulty giving and receiving genuine affection or love

Problems with Emotional Functioning:

  • minimal ability to recognize the emotions of others
  • poor emotional regulation (moodiness, extreme fluctuations in emotions, “falling apart” when faced with stress)
  • low self-esteem

Behavior Problems:

  • demanding, clingy, and/or overt or covert over-controlling behavior
  • temper tantrums and poor self-control
  • regressed behavior, problems with speech, problems with eating
  • chronic lying and Stealing
  • property destruction and aggression
  • impulsivity

Problems with Cognitive/Moral Development:

  • lack of understanding of cause and effect
  • decreased abstract thinking
  • limited compassion, empathy, and remorse
  • difficulty concentrating and attending to school related tasks

Currently, The U.S. has enacted a policy with potentially devastating consequences to children.  The types of injuries that we are causing can be permanent, pervasive, and exceptionally difficult to treat.  Repair of early life trauma, particularly the abrupt severing of contact between child and parent, without understanding, without predictability, and without promise of reunion causes irrevocable damage.   The cost to these children and the future that unfolds along with them will be astronomical and beyond any justification for the current policy.

It is important to remember that these children may not demonstrate full signs and symptoms of their injuries at this time.  It is not until they reach a place where safety is more certain that that they begin to demonstrate the full impact of the trauma.  As a nation, we have an opportunity to either begin to heal or to further deepen the psychological wounds this children bring with them across our border. The United States has the capacity to offer a restorative and corrective experience to our neighbors, community, and within this nation.  We can rebuild the trust of these children. We can offer security. We have the opportunity to demonstrate that the world can be more good than bad. 

As we look for solutions for families at our border it becomes increasingly important that we remember the lessons from the past. In medicine and psychiatry, not all things are certain; however, there are concepts that are universally accepted and foundational to healthy development. Supporting attachments between parents and children honors who we are as a people and builds upon the original principals of our nation.


Theresa Randazzo-Burton, MD
Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist



American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Quick Facts:Disrupted Attachment. An Information Booklet For Parents/Guardians and Child Serving Professionals in Chittenden County, Vermont

Posted. June 1, 2018. They Are (Still) Refugees: People Continue to Flee Violence in Latin American Countries.  

PEW Research Center:

August 2, 2017. TIME Magazine. Author: OLIVIA B. WAXMAN:The Poem on the Statue of Liberty Was ‘Added Later’ But There’s More to That Story

Family on Cliffside

Listening to the Little Things

Let’s Put an End to Bullying

“How did I miss this?  Why didn’t he tell me what was happening?  If I had known sooner, I could have done something! “ As parents, we try hard to avoid getting out of sync with our family.  We have all found ourselves wondering how to encourage our kids to talk to us about the issues they face.  While we may feel helpless or even unwanted at times, the good news is children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help with tough decisions. Getting them to talk is probably easier than you think, it’s just a matter of creating some time and space to connect.  Spending 10-15 minutes a day talking with your kids reassures them that you are available and attentive. If you want to hear about the big things happening in your child’s life, you have to listen to the little things.  

For some families, conversation about daily life, classes, activities, friends, and hobbies comes easily and the topics flow.  Other families may feel out of practice, uncomfortable, or artificial when they try to communicate. Breaking the ice, or getting back to face-to-face communication is worth trying.  Chances are your child (yes, even your teenager) has also been longing to connect with you.

Here are some ideas to help start conversations about your child’s daily life and feelings: 

  • What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
  • What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
  • What is it like to ride the school bus?
  • What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?
  • How does your teacher handle problems in the classroom?  Do you think those methods are effective?

When It comes to bullying, having a foundation of good communication and a feeling of security at home can literally be life saving!  Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how this issue might be affecting your child or the school your child attends. Even if your child is not directly involved in bullying, an environment where bullying thrives can put everyone at risk.  The solutions to bullying depend largely on the bystanders deciding their school should be a place where every student feels safe. We can teach our children this message both directly and indirectly when we talk with them. There are no right or wrong ways to address these topics, but it is important to encourage kids to speak honestly. Assure kids they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise.

You can start having conversations at home with questions like these:

  • What does “bullying” mean to you?
  • Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
  • Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
  • Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
  • What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
  • Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
  • What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
  • Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
  • Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?

Expert Tip: Try listening without planning a reply.  Instead, focus on trying to understand how your child is processing and feeling. If you don’t know how to reply, ask your child how you can help.  You may be surprised by the answer. Finding out what would feel helpful goes a long way towards encouraging them to continue talking.

We tune into our children when we listen to answers from questions like the ones above.  We show our children that they have valuable thoughts in their mind and those thoughts can turn into words and actions, which have the power to impact others.  A child who believes in their own ability is not likely to bully others or tolerate bullying around them.

We spend so much time away from our children that it’s important to continually learn about how teachers, friends, social media and other influences are shaping and changing who they are.  When we listen, we stay tuned into the person they are becoming and we send them the message that they are worth knowing. A child who believes that they are worth knowing, worth our time, worth out effort, worth our support is as bullyproof as can be.

There are simple ways to keep up-to-date with kids’ lives.  This is especially important for parents who split time with another caregiver or who travel and are away from home often.

Tips for staying up-to-date with your child’s life:

  • Read class newsletters and school flyers. Talk about them at home.
  • Check out the school website
  • Attend school events and parent nights
  • Greet the bus driver
  • Meet teachers and counselors or reach out by email

When we take time to talk with our children, we provide an example of how to listen, solve problems, and consider others.  The antidote to bullying is building kids who feel capable, confident, and worthwhile. Kids who receive this message at home share it with others.  

Theresa Randazzo-Burton, MD
Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist

Follow our Blog for more on this series.  Dr. Burton will visit topics related to bullying in more detail in weeks to come.  She will tackle the topics of cyberbullying, helping your child form a peer group, identifying bullying at home, bully proofing, bouncing back from bullying, and more.  Check with the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach this fall to join our Bouncing Back Group for kids to have experienced bullying.  

Additional Resources: logoNational Anti Bullying Logo Anti-Bullying Logo

Family on Bench

Stop Bullying

Let’s Put an End to Bullying

Kids in the US attend school for 180 days a year!  Half of our childrens’ waking hours from Monday to Friday are spent in classrooms with peers and teachers.  We hope, watch, and wait to see if the people who share our son’s or daughter’s time are going to think he/she is as wonderful as we do! The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach believes that children and teens need a safe and supportive educational environment to achieve their academic potential.  We are beginning a series of blog posts to help arm parents, kids, and educators in our community with tools to prevent, recognize, intervene and bounce back from bullying.

STop Bullying Colorful Hand

This week we look to for evidence based steps in preventing bullying. Kids take their cues from the adults in their life about how to view bullying.  Parents, teachers, coaches, and administrators serve a vital role in setting the scene at school. We are going to walk through the these prevention guidelines week by week and then move on to intervention and recovery.

Preventions and What You Can Do:

  • Talk about what bullying is and give some examples.  Tell kids bullying is not tolerated on or off campus and the everyone has a role in preventing it.  Make sure kids know who they can go to at school to report something they see happening and that they can make an anonymous report.  Take a look below for our first expanded discussion.
  • Talk to your child’s school about how they prevent bullying and ask if they have a campaign or curriculum they offer specific grade-levels  struggling with bullying concerns.
  • If your child has already been involved with bullying, talk with a specialist about building resilience. It is important for kids to unlearn the bully or victim role before starting a new grade or school to keep the pattern from continuing.
  • Check in with kids periodically.  Listen to their experiences about making and keeping friends. Ask about school.  Understand their concerns about fitting-in, being well-liked, and having a place at school they feel accepted.
  • Foster Interests and Hobbies. Special activities can boost confidence, help kids find like-minded friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
  • Be a good role model!  Kids learn from observing social behavior.  When they see how parents treat one another, principals treat teachers, and coaches treat the opposing team, they are crafting scripts for life.  Examples of adults and peers treating each other with kindness and respect are the best weapon we have against bullying.

Bullying: Know it when you see it!

Children who are able to identify bullying can learn to stand up for themselves and others.  Kids often need grown-ups to help them talk about difficult or embarrassing topics. They also need adults to give them the space and permission to talk.  When they have this, they can safely respond to bullying and get help.

  • Step 1: Help your child identify bullying when it happens.  Ask them to tell you about bullying or if they have seen it at school or on TV.  Physical bullying like pushing, stealing, tripping, threatening with weapons, and acts of intimidation happens on school campuses everyday. However, bullying is often more subtle than pulling someone’s hair or taking their lunch money.  It is often a very personal and shameful. See if your child can identify name calling, rumor spreading, turning peers against someone, pointing and laughing, and intentionally making it unpopular to like someone as bullying.
  • Step 2: Help your child identify trusted adults at school, at home, at camp, and any other place they spend time.  Don’t take for granted that they know who to talk to or that you want them to speak-up. Kids, particularly if they are dealing with a bit of depression or anxiety, can erroneously believe that their problems are not important enough to share.
  • Step 3: Let your child know that it is brave to speak-up about bullying.  Help them step away from the stigma. It takes a lot of courage for a kid to admit to an adult that they are being bullied!  Secretly they may fear that an adult or parent won’t take them seriously or will view them as weak. Their worst fear is that the adult will agree with the things the bully has said or done. In my experience, this is the largest barrier to kids reporting bullying to their parents.
  • Step 4: Tell you child that no one is allowed to hurt them, just as they are not permitted to hurt anyone else.  Let them know that they deserve to be treated with dignity and that the adults at school and in the community believe this also.  Adults will take steps to address when bullying is identified. Most importantly, tell your child that if they inform you of bullying, you will NEVER MAKE THEM SIT DOWN WITH THE BULLY TO TALK IT OUT.  This does not help and is not recommended.  Bullying prevention is accomplished through the bystander effect: when enough kids believe they deserve to go to a school where everyone feels safe and accepted, they will stand-up for that belief.  Building this culture into educational settings, athletic programs, extracurricular activities, and our homes is the treatment for bullying problems in a community.
  • Step 5: Remember that parents are not expected to have all the answers to challenges children face.  Give comfort, support, and advice, even if you can’t solve the problem directly. Children are not always looking for solutions, in fact jumping to problem solving before understanding their experience can be invalidating.  Let them know what they feel makes sense.  Ask them what they think would help–problem solve together.
  • Step 6: Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently, if they find themselves in the middle of a bullying situation.  If it’s something more complicated or dangerous, find strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work.

Additional Resources: logo  National Anti Bullying Logo  Anti-Bullying Logo

Follow our Blog for more on this series.  We will visit these topics in more detail in weeks to come.  The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach will tackle the topics of cyberbullying, helping your child form a peer group, identifying bullying at home, bully proofing, bouncing back from bullying, and more.  Check with the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach this fall to join our Bouncing Back Group for kids to have experiencing bullying.