"Nobody Like a Water Hose" How to Guard Your Kids Against Sexual Harrassment, Abuse & Bullying

On the way home from picking up my kids from school, my 10 year old daughter told me that she had a conversation with a boy in her class that went like this..

“All us boys at school used to call you water hose last year because you are so tall and skinny and have no curves.  I feel bad for you because nobody likes people with flat bottoms.”  

She told me she was shocked people think of her that way.  

She told him, “I’m still growing.”

He said, “You better hope puberty comes early for you so your butt can get bigger or you should really consider getting plastic surgery.”

She laughed it off and said, “People like me the way I am.”

He said, “Maybe you can cover up your flat butt with a long jacket.”

She said, “I am not trying to hide my features just because people don’t like it.”

He said, “There is no benefit of being a water hose.”

She said, “There is no benefit of having a big butt.”

The conversation went on and on.  He kept telling her he felt bad for her and coming up with ideas on what she could do to stop having a flat bottom.

And so it begins.

I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming.  It is not shocking to me.  Our children are constantly exposed to sexualization and objectification of women in our culture.

It still sickens me.  It saddens me.  It infuriates me.  

I am proud that my daughter stood up for herself.  I am thrilled at her confidence.  I can almost be fooled into thinking it wasn’t a big deal to her because she laughed it off.  But as a woman, I know that no matter how much she tried to shake it off, there was a tiny seed planted in her mind at that moment about how she is viewed by others, what her value is to others, her confidence shaken.

So now what?  What is a mother to do? On the one hand, I don’t want to blow it out of proportion and make it worse for her.  At the same time, I don’t want to blow it off and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal and contribute to the “boys will be boys” mindset.

Did I mention my 7 year old son is in the car listening to the whole thing?

What did I do?  I had that important and uncomfortable conversation.  It is really more of a continuation of a conversation that I had started with them since they were tiny.

Create a safe environment to share.

I told her, “I am so glad you told me.” Asked her how she felt, how she handled it, and told her how good it was that she handled it the way she did.

From the moment my kids were little I worked on not shaming them when they told me the truth about something.  They have always had a less severe consequence if they were brave enough to tell me the truth.  There is so much shame in anything related to sex or body parts that it can be scary to tell the truth if abuse occurs.

I also create the time.  I am a busy working mom, like many of you.  I found that there are certain times of day when my kids really open up to me about what has gone on in their day and I listen intently, without judgement.  Car rides back and forth to school are prime time for connection.  It takes way more time out of my day than putting them on the bus.  It is not convenient or easy, but it is a crucial bonding time for us.

The fact that we had long established a time and safe place to share things like this without shame is where it begins.  Had she not felt comfortable to share, this conversation would have been nothing more than a shameful memory for her.  Having that conversation and not sticking my head in the sand is step one.  If you don’t teach your kids about things related to to sex, someone else will! You may not like the information they get from someone else and the information may be wrong.  Is it going to be weird or awkward? Yeah, it might, but remember, you set the tone for that kind of conversation.  They will pick up on your vibe.  If you act weird and uncomfortable about it, so might they.  Even then, awkward and uncomfortable conversation is better than no conversation.

No means no.

I have taught my kids since they were little that when it come to their bodies, no means no.  Stop means stop.  This is true when they are rough playing, hugging, making jokes etc.  That has taught them that they are in charge of their own bodies and that they can say no when someone makes them feel uncomfortable.  It also teaches them that when someone tells them no, they need to honor and respect that, too.

So again, I reminded them that the discomfort that she felt at the moment he said those things, that icky gut feeling is how you know that what is happening isn’t right and that it is ok to tell the person to stop or shut up, walk away, tell an adult etc.

I discussed that when you see that someone is uncomfortable, that is your signal to stop doing what you are doing.

Privates are Private

Kids need to know what their private areas are.  A simple way to say it is any place your bathing suit covers.  Call their body parts the correct names (breast, penis, vagina etc.) They also need to know their privates are private and everyone else’s privates are private.  Nobody else should see, touch talk about their privates and vice versa.  No matter what someone tries to tell you to convince you that it is ok, it is not.  

When my son heard what happened to my daughter he KNEW it was NOT ok because we have had these conversations before.

You are more than just your sexuality

I encourage my children to talk about what they like about themselves.  This way they do not feel the need to seek out others to confirm how awesome they are.  I tell them how awesome I think they are all the time. “You worked hard to reach that goal and you did it!”  “That was really tough for you and you turned it around!” “

I tell my daughter she is beautiful.  I tell my son he is handsome. And I tell them all the time how proud I am of them because they are smart, kind, strong, brave, generous, thoughtful, loving, fun, funny, caring, hardworking, etc.  They are so much more than their looks and physical bodies.

It is never your fault and it is not ok

When it comes to abuse it is not uncommon for victims to feel embarrassed or ashamed.  The first time I was sexually harassed was in 7th grade.  I sat in the front of the class.  The boy that sat next to me kept grabbing my behind every chance he could to amuse and get a good laugh from the boys sitting behind me.  I told him to stop.  He didn’t.  I felt embarrassed.  When I mentioned it at the dinner table with my parents, I acted like it was a funny thing that happened which was annoying, ignoring how I really felt embarrassed.  I didn’t think it was a big deal.  My parents sure did.  I was even more embarrassed when they went up to the school and demanded that kid be held accountable and insisted on pressing charges.  At the time, I was relieved it would be stopped but I was even more embarrassed that it got blown up into a huge deal and I was worried the other kids would call me a tattle tale or shun me because I was a prude for telling.  So much so that even as an adult when I saw that kid I felt embarrassed.

Now as an adult I see it differently.  I am so grateful that my parents knew best.  That they had my back and stepped up to protect me even when I couldn’t understand what was wrong.  They understood that I had a right to an education free from feeling humiliated and objectified. Had that gone on, it would most definitely impacted my academics.  Their actions taught me that I did not have to accept behavior like that from others.  I did nothing wrong.  It taught me my value and worth.  That being treated that way is not something I just have to accept. And most importantly that I had done nothing wrong.

Report it.

Our kids need us to be their advocates and their voice now more than ever.  They are exposed to so much that is difficult for them to fully comprehend the impact of what they are absorbing. They need us to step up and pay attention and protect them.  If your child is being bullied or harassed, encourage your child to stand up for themselves. But don’t let it stop there.  Report it.  Show them their value. I have worked with parents who have kids that are suicidal because of bullying and harassment and they don’t want to get involved.  Step up.  We have to teach our children their worth because if we don’t society will and they will get it all wrong.  We protect our children when we step up but we also send a message to the bullies and harassers and abusers that it is not ok.  We will not turn a blind eye and allow this to go on.

So what happened??

I reported it.  I spoke to the assistant principal who supported us 100%.  He told me that the behavior is unacceptable.  That the school environment should be safe.  That school is preparing children for the work environment and had this been at work the student would have been reprimanded, fired and sued.  I assured him that my daughter was fine and he said he was glad for that but, it is important to report those things because although my daughter could handle it, the next little girl might not. Plus it is important to send a message to my daughter that she can report those things and it will be taken seriously and she will be protected because it isn’t ok.  He said in this day and age our kids our exposed to so much it is up to us to teach them how to handle it.

I was blown away.  I was so appreciative that he was supportive.  And he was 100% right!

7 Tips for When You Don't Wanna

One of the first things I tell my clients when they come to session and want to feel better is to exercise regularly.  So clearly I know the benefits of it, not just physically, but mentally.  I know that it is an important part of self-care, gives a sense of accomplishment, builds self-esteem etc. I preach it all the time.  I even really like to work out.  As much as I know that it is good for me and how important it is, there are still time when I DON’T WANNA!!!!!

The “I don’t wanna” syndrome is not just about exercise either.  It could be I don’t want to eat the healthy meal.  I don’t wanna complete that task.  I don’t wanna study. Sometimes we don’t want to do what we know we should to get us to the next level and closer to our goal, whether it be weight loss, health, business, relationships etc.

Why??? Why on earth do we not want to do what it takes to reach our goals? 

There are actually many reasons:

Maybe you feel overwhelmed. It just seems like too much and you don’t feel like you can possibly do it.  You don’t even know where to start.

Perhaps you have the perfectionist mindset.  You think if it is not going to be perfect why even try

It could be that you are struggling with making it a priority. You have a million other things to do, too. This task does not seem necessary.

Sometimes it is fatigue.  You just don’t have the energy

You could be struggling with depression.  When you are struggling with depression it is hard to find the motivation to do things and don’t enjoy things like you used to.

It could be fear or anxiety.  You are afraid you aren’t going to do it rightor something is going to go wrong which makes you feel anxious and want to avoid it.

Maybe you lack patience.  You aren’t seeing results fast enough and you’re frustrated.

Whatever the reason is, there are some suggestions to help you push past the “I don’t wanna” and get moving.

1.  Competition.  One way I get past a case of the “I don’t wannas,” is I check out my competition.  I follow them on social media and check out what they are doing.   I am not talking about people that are WAY ahead of me in the goal I want to accomplish.  I don’t look at those that are at my end goal.  It seems too far away and out of reach and frustrates me further.  I look at people who are just like me and are doing what I know I should be doing and don’t wanna.  It inspires me that if they can do it, I can too.  There is something about seeing people making small steps towards the goal, doing what I am avoiding, that snaps me back into reality and stops me from making excuses not to do it.  Sometimes when people look at their competition they get down on themselves.  Don’t do that.  Use it as inspiration because if they can do it, so can you.

2.  Vision:  Sometimes when I don’t want to do something I know I should, I use visualization.  I keep my eye on the end goal.  What will it feel like when I get to that end goal?  What will I look like? How will getting to that end goal change my life?  How will it change how I feel about myself?  How will it affect my loved ones? I imagine what it would feel like if I did it, what I would look like if I did.  Let’s take running for example.  I imagine what the sense of accomplishment will feel like when I am done.  I imagine how I will look physically over time.  I imagine how strong I will feel.  I imagine what it will feel like to brag to my friends that I did it.  I imagine the exhilaration of it.  I imagine how proud I will feel after I have done it. 

3.  What Feels Better:  Burn out is real.  Anyone that has worked out knows this.  When you do too much too fast it does not work out in your favor.  If I am feeling like “I don’t wanna,” I ask myself, “What will feel better?”  I think about the end result of each action I could take.  Sometimes, I decide I will feel better after I exercise than if I don’t.  Sometimes, I decide I will feel better after I have a nap, than to exercise.  Sometimes I decide I will feel better if I clean the house instead of work on my business stuff.  I think it important to allow yourself a break now and then or you risk a break down and nothing will get accomplished then.

4.  Bite Size Pieces:  When I am training for a race, like a half marathon, there are times it feels so overwhelming it seems impossible!  It could be training for a marathon, growing a business, raising children, getting a degree, anything that is going to take time and dedication to accomplish can seem like you are trying to eat an elephant.  The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  So, I break down big goals into small doable tasks.  If I were training for a half marathon, I wouldn’t run 13.1 miles the first day of training.  I start with what feels doable, like 3 miles, then once that becomes easy I add on.  Even then, there are days when I don’t wanna do the small task, so I break it down to an even smaller task.  I might run 1 mile or I might just get out for a walk.  Even if it is just one tiny step forward toward a goal, it is better than no steps forward and staying where you are.

5.  Progress not Perfection:  You will have bad days.  You will have obstacles.  The important thing is to not let it stop you.  I see people that just give up when things don’t go perfectly for them.  One mistake does not mean working for this goal is a mistake.  One failed attempt does not mean you are a failure at it or you can’t do it.  Bad days are part of the process towards success.  There are days I get out there to work out and it is a bad workout.  It is hard.  I feel weak.  When that happens it is discouraging, frustrating and I really don’t want to go work out again the next time.  I remind myself that no effort towards a goal is bad.  As long as you are putting forth the effort, that is progress.  I do not expect for perfection because it makes the “I don’t wannas” even worse.   

6.  Be kind to yourself:  Pay attention to your self-talk.  How are you talking to yourself in your head?  What do you tell yourself about the task you need to do?  Are you beating yourself up when you don’t accomplish a task? Beating yourself up doesn’t work! It just makes you feel bad.  It doesn’t push you closer to your goal.  In fact, it pushes you further from your goal.  If you let the “I don’t wannas” get the best of you, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again.  Ask yourself, “Where did I go wrong and what can I do to not make that mistake again?”  You will be much more likely to conquer the “I don’t wannas” next time.

7.  Celebrate every mile.  Don’t wait until you accomplish your goal to be happy and celebrate.  Celebrate every time you get out there and work on your goal.  Celebrate every mistake because it means you are trying and learning and growing.  Let yourself feel good while in process of accomplishing your goal and not just when you reach your goal.  That positive reinforcement will make the “I don’t wannas” diminish.

Moral of the story? That “I don’t wanna” feeling is normal.  Everyone feels is at one point or another, but you don’t have to let it stop you from reaching your goals!

When facebook feels like the devil!

 I often have clients that come in and talk about how Facebook has ruined their day.  Many people have negative emotions towards Facebook despite the fact that they use it frequently.  People who are depressed or anxious often find themseles triggered by things they see on Facebook.  While I agree that limiting Facebook or closing your account, would be a good idea, I know that many won't.   Plus, dare I say, I think Facebook can be a great tool towards helping you feel better. Here are my suggestions on how to handle Facebook.

1.  Clean up your newsfeed.  Unfriend, block from your newsfeed or block people that post negative things that trigger you all together.  It is easy to do.  Having that little irritant as you scroll through your newsfeed can put a damper on your day and get you worked up over things unnecessarily.  When you are struggling with a mental disorder or stress the last thing you need is to add one more unpleasnat feelng to your day.  

2.  Find and follow people with positive messages that inspire you.  Find people that make you laugh, people that have a positive outlook on life and struggles, inspirational speakers, spiritual leaders any one that has a message that makes you feel good.  I have found many people along this line and my newsfeed is constantly flooded with inspiring messages throughout the day.   It is a real pick me up and forces me to change perpective on even the bad days.

3.  Post positive messages.  You will be surprised on how this changes your own perpective.  It forces you too look for something positive in your day, rather than looking for sommething to complain about and focusing on all that went wrong.  Scanning your environment for good things makes them appear more on your radar and uplifts your mood.

4.  Keep personal stuff for personal interactions.  I am all for finding and using your support network when you need to talk.  Share with your closest and most trusted friends and confidants, but my guess is the hundreds of facebook friends you have do not fall in that category.  Facebook should not be used as your diary.  When you share personal stuff that is vulnerable at a vulnerable time, you are opening yourself up to comments and trolls that now know how to push your buttons.  Share those thoughts and feeligs with people you know you can trust.

5.  Be realistic when evaluating the posts of others.  Do not believe everything that you read!  One of the biggest complaints I hear about Facebook is that people feel bad about their lives when comparing it to the life Facebook says their friends live. I have seen first hand people struggling in their personal life, but posting on Facebook the life of perfection.  People post a very polished life with polished pistures, but it isn't always real.  Everyone has struggles.  Everyone has issues.  Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster.

Facebook does not have to be the devil.  Facebook can be your friend and even a tool for healing when used wisely.  Can you think of any ways that Facebook can be used to benefit you?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Beat the funk

Clients come in to my office because they are looking for some relief from emotional pain.  Most of the time the emotional pain is not something that will be resolved in just one session.  There are some things you can implement right away that can provide some relief. 

1.  Exercise:  Exercise is a great way feel better.  Talk to your doctor first and be reasonable.  Don't try to go too hard, too fast.  Exercise helps increase your feel good endorphins and can provide a boost of energy and improve mood right away.  It tires out your muscles if you feel tense and helps them to relax.  It exhausts your body so you sleep better.  It gets you up and moving when you do not feel like moving and gives you a great feeling of accomplishment.

2.  Pleasant Activity:  Sometimes when you feel down, you may not want to do anything.  You may have lost interest in doing things that you used to enjoy doing.  Do something anyway.  Even if you don't get the same pleasure out of doing it that you used to, you are likely to feel more pleasure than doing nothing.  So find something you might enjoy and do it.  It does not have to be anything big.  You can work in your garden, take a buble bath, call a friend you haven't talked to in a while anything that may bring you some pleasure.

3.  Get a medical evaluation:  Maybe it is just a funk, maybe it is more serious like depression, maybe it is your hormones or a vitamin deficiency.  If your mood is low, you don't feel like yourself, you have low energy or just don't feel like yourself, talk to your doctor.  It may be an easy fix like taking a vitamin supplement.  Whatever it may be, having an answer is always a step in the right direction, even if it means ruling some things out.

4.  Get out.  One of the first things that tells me someone may be slippping into depression is isloation.  If you start feeling like you don't want to be around anyone, that could be a red flag.  Often clients that start isolating feel worse over time.  I call it the downward spiral because you are home alone, by yourself with your thoughts and allowing them to go to dark places. So don't do it.  Get out of your house. Be outside and get some vitamin D.  Be around friends or loved ones.  If you can't do that go to a mall, wallk around a store, go to a park.  Go places where there are people around. 

5.  Journal.  Journal writing canbe a great way to get some relief fairly quickly.  Some people find it helpful to write about what is bothering them and feel just getting it out helps them feel better.   Some people prefer to write about all the good things that are going on in their life and what they are grateful for.  Do whatever works for you and helps you to feel better.

These activities are a great way to get a bit of relief fairly quickly, but are by no means a substitute for therapy.  If you are experiencing feelings of sadness, guilt, lack of motivation, crying spells, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, lack of energy, too little of too much sleep, changes in appetite, and it has lasted for longer than two weeks, by all means get some help right away.  Talk to your doctor, find a counselor join a group.  There are many things out there that can help you through a difficult time.  You don't need to suffer and you don't need to suffer alone.