Ask Alice —Advice for All

We just moved to Rye for several reasons. One was we liked the community, but, most importantly, because our 13-year-old son had difficulty in our old neighborhood with a group of boys who bullied him.

Published September 19, 2012 5:00 AM
3 min read

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We just moved to Rye for several reasons. One was we liked the community, but, most importantly, because our 13-year-old son had difficulty in our old neighborhood with a group of boys who bullied him.


Getting off to a Good Start


Dear Alice,

 

We just moved to Rye for several reasons. One was we liked the community, but, most importantly, because our 13-year-old son had difficulty in our old neighborhood with a group of boys who bullied him.

 

Our son is a quiet and very thoughtful person. We are hopeful this move will make him happier, but we recognize that he is putting pressure on himself and feeling some pressure from us to be part of a social group.

 

We know that our worry doesn’t help our son. We understand that we also have adjustments to make with this move, but we have friends in other places besides Rye and don’t feel as trapped as our child might. Do you have any suggestions?

 

— Worried Newcomers


Dear Worried Newcomers,

 

 

Moving to a new community is a difficult transition for most people because they have to find like-minded people and activities they enjoy. Helping one’s children with this change can be complicated because of all the feelings that surface for parents. Since your son already has had difficulty with a group of boys, he is likely to have his own concerns about the neighborhood and starting a new school. You can help him avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy that things won’t work out well for him.

 

 

The most helpful approach is for you and your husband to be highly supportive of him. Listen to him as he describes what he is worried about. If he approaches the neighborhood children and school with great trepidation, others can sense this and the likelihood of him being targeted or isolated is greater than if he acts in a confident, but not arrogant way. You can help him identify his strengths and recognize those areas in which he had previous successes. Also remind him of the kind children at his old school, and reassure him that he will also find other kind children to be his friends in Rye.

 

 

Sometimes children get caught up in wanting to be part of a particular crowd, and they may ignore those who are not in the popular group but have attributes they will come to appreciate. Encourage him to remain open to different people from those he might have assumed he wanted as friends. There are usually a number of quieter students who would be delighted to find a friend. Your child has resilience, which you can strengthen by helping him recognize that he will find solutions to this and other problems.

 

 

Additionally, you need to work on your own anxiety, so that you do not add to his fears. Children are highly attuned to their parents’ worries and anxieties, even if they are not openly expressed. Continually asking how he is doing will only show him how worried you are.

 

 

If children see that their parents lack confidence in them, they are less likely to feel comfortable with their own ability to succeed. Be aware of your own reactions and find a way to let him tell you about his fears, so that he doesn’t see you as fragile and then further doubts his own ability to cope. Don’t contribute to his thinking that his problems are insurmountable.

 

 

Listen with openness and gentleness. Allow him to explore his own solutions. See if you all can determine what he might be doing to add to the problem.

 

 

Think about your own history of socializing. If you, your husband, or even one of your siblings had difficulty socially, you are likely to recall this in your parenting. Memories of being hurt stay with people for many years. Remind yourself that you, too, have strengths that will help you deal with your child’s adjustment. Your child, no doubt, has unique interests that can be further explored and developed, whether in athletics or the arts.

 

 

To help him learn to be proud of his uniqueness, encourage whatever he loves to do. You may need to find programs out of Rye that reflect his abilities and enjoyment. Having friends outside the community can also prevent the isolation your son has experienced before. The school guidance counselor can be a useful resource to help in his adjustment.

 

 

With your love, respect and gentle encouragement, your son should do well.

 

— Alice

 

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