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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

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Q. My 11-year-old nephew saw an Instagram post from his friend depicting a handful of pills and a note that she was going to kill herself. He woke up his mom, they called the girl's mom and her mother got her to the hospital in time. In the aftermath, my nephew is dealing with a lot of complicated feelings. How can I help him cope?

A. It's a hard truth that the children we love will face scary moments at some point in their lives. One reason is that they're often in a better position to know about a friend's mental health issues than parents are. But what kept this girl alive was your nephew reaching out to his mother, trusting that his concern would be taken seriously and that she'd know what to do. The best resource to assist your nephew is The Whole- Brain Child, co-authored by Daniel Siegel, MD. It offers a strategy for processing painful memories by engaging the left side of the brain (which likes logic) and the right (which cares about feelings). Siegel suggests an adult retell the event while the child pretends to hold a remote control so he can say "pause" or "fast- forward" when he gets to a moment too painful to talk about. The adult can then proceed to the part where things turned out okay-in this case, when the girl got the help she needed. After reassuring the child with positive memories, the adult can "rewind" and help him process frightening ones.

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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

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Q. I'm concerned about my grandson, who will be heading into his first year of high school this fall. He's a people-pleaser and always desperately trying to fit in. How can I get him ready for the potential dangers-everything from bullying to drugs?

A. This is why grandparents are so crucial! They can take a step back and see their grandchildren's challenges with perspective and love. If you want to reach out, do it casually. When you're watching TV together,for example, mute the commercials and start a conversation. Better yet, offer to take your grandson on an errand when he needs something for school or drive him to an extracurricular activity. If you ever made an effort to fit in, share the experience and what you learned from it--including that it's not a sign of weakness to need help figuring out these kinds of problems. Explain the difference between playful teasing (which makes you feel liked) and malicious teasing (which makes you feel insecure). Tell him that a loyal friend won't put you in situations that compromise your values, but a disloyal one will. Need more guidance on the common challenges that high school boys face? Read and then give him a free e-book I wrote with high school boys called The Guide: Managing Jerks, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want (available on all platforms).

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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

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Q. My middle-school daughter told me she lost her leather jacket, but I suspect someone stole it. How can I get to the bottom of this?

A. Talk to her privately when you bring up your concern. Your goal isn't to get her to admit you were right. Instead, you want this experience to show her the benefit of coming to you with a problem—even if she's worried that you might get angry. Say something like, "I've been thinking about that jacket. I know you wouldn't just forget and leave it somewhere. If anything else happened to it, you can tell me. I'm not going to freak out." Don't expect an immediate confession. Wait for about one more minute and if she doesn't say anything or denies it, kiss her and walk away or change the subject. Whether you're right or wrong, your actions convey love. If she admits it was stolen, reassure her by saying, "Thanks for letting me know. That's awful. Should we talk about it now or tomorrow, so we can think about the best way to handle the problem? Maybe you know who stole it and prefer not to confront this kid, but if you don't, the person will think she can keep doing this to you." Work with your daughter on creating a plan of action she can feel good about, which may mean you get help from the school, the other kid's parent or another authority figure.

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Ask Rosalind: How to Talk About Peer Pressure and Friendship Feuds

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Q. Lately my 13-year-old nephew can't stay out of trouble. He had five detentions this year, picked on kids at school and is constantly lying about small things. His parents have tried every form of discipline and are out of ideas. What will turn their son around?

A. There's always a good reason why kids do what they do. If you can determine the reason, you can usually come up with a solution. Because he started acting out suddenly, I'd say his behavior was sparked by a specific incident. Something is going on in his life (like being bullied or struggling academically and having an unsupportive teacher) that's causing his to lash out. His mom and dad must tell him, "Look, we love you, we've been thinking about this, and there has to be a logical explanation for your behavior. That doesn't mean you're allowed to harass other kids, it just means we want to know why you're doing it. I don't expect you to tell us about everything that's hurting you, but perhaps a starting place is sharing 10 percent. That way, we can begin to understand where you're coming from." The key here is to express empathy and give him the space to explain why he's so angry but still be clear that he is accountable for his actions.

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