Parents’ Guide To Cyberbullying and the Law

What Is Cyberbullying

Bullying has always been an unfortunate part of the adolescent experience. Although discouraged by parents and teachers, most of us probably have memories of being intimidated by schoolyard bullies. However, in the old days, kids left their bullies behind when they left school for the day. But today, thanks to the internet and social media, many kids sadly take bullying home with them when they leave the school grounds.

Online bullying – or, as it has come to be known, cyberbullying – can often take a more vicious edge than the schoolyard taunts of yore. Once a group has identified a peer who they deem worthy of their vitriol, they will frequently be relentless, going so far as to create Facebook groups and entire pages devoted to harassing and mocking their chosen victim.

In some instances cyberbullying escalates to terrible levels, well beyond the bounds of anything that can be written off as “kids will be kids” behavior, and becomes a criminal offense. Over 90% of teens on social media have witnessed someone being mean to someone else on social media, and over 21% of teens check in on social media just to see if anyone has said anything mean about them. This infographic from rawhide.org shows a number of shocking statistics about cyberbullying.

In case you find your son or daughter faced with this situation, here are a few things you should know about cyberbullying and the law.

Cyberbullying Laws Vary State By State

Dealing with internet crime is still very new for legislators. While many states were slow to include electronic harassment in their definition of bullying, approximately 50% of states now include language in their bullying laws that make cyberbullying a crime. If your child is being cyberbullied, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state.

School Administrators Might Claim No Responsibility

Sadly, many school administrators will claim that they are not responsible if your child is being bullied. This is because they claim that the bullying is happened online and that the internet is off school grounds. If the administration refuses to step in and help, then you have no choice but to circumvent them and contact an attorney.

A Lawyer Can Help You Through The Process

Making a harassment case should always be done with the aid of a competent attorney. Your lawyer will be able to help you to document instances of abuse and advise you on how to file a police report. If the cyberbullying is very severe, your attorney will aid you in seeking protection orders on behalf of your child against the offender(s).

Standing Your Ground Is Crucial

If your child is being bullied, standing your ground and taking legal action is absolutely the best course of action. Many bullies are enabled by parents who fail to discipline them and a lack of a fear of consequences for their actions. Seeking an attorney and taking legal action demonstrates that the bully’s behavior will not be tolerated and that serious consequences are a possibility.

No parents want to see their child tormented. This is why it is essential that you seek legal representation if a group of kids are making your child’s life unhappy or causing him or her to feel unsafe. Follow the proper legal channels and take a stand against cyberbullying.

School Bullies and Your Options

No one wants to see their child get bullied at school, but what should a parent do if they feel like they can’t protect their child? Sending your kid off to school knowing there is a bully waiting for their arrival can be difficult, but knowing what to do to handle the situation can be even harder.

Here are some steps you can take, and some things you should avoid, to ensure that your child remains safe:

Do Not Approach the Bully’s Parents

It may seem a logical first step, but talking to the bully’s parents rarely ends well. Parents do not like to hear that their child is a bully anymore than they like to hear that their child is being bullied, so confronting someone with the notion that their child is a bad apple never ends well.

If the bully’s parents are abusive, informing them of their child’s bad behavior could be a trigger for more abuse for the child or the parents may even attack you.

Get All the Info

Before you do anything, be sure you know all the facts. Ask your child to inform you about what the bully is doing, if they are bullying anyone else, and where the bullying takes place. When you know all the information, a discussion with a professional will be easier.

Get the School Involved

The best help you can receive if your child is being bullied is from the school board. Talk with your child’s teachers and the school principal about what is happening to your child and what can be done to stop it from happening again.

Be sure to get a written document outlining what will be done to address the bullying situation. While you may trust that the school principal will do their best to get the bullying to stop, having it in written form allows you to hold them to it if they do not perform.

Take Legal Action

In some cases, legal action is necessary to get your child’s bullying to stop. If your child is being threatened, law enforcement should become involved as quickly as possible. Furthermore, if the school system is not performing to their agreed upon duties or is otherwise not addressing the bullying situation, you can file a Notice of Harassment. Contact a lawyer to discuss all of your legal options and find the best, fastest solution to your child’s bullying problem.

It is important to know how to recognize bullying and what you can do to stop it. Do not allow your child to live in fear, and do not feel like you have no recourse for action. There are legal means to stand up against bullying if the institutions you look to for support cannot handle it.

How to Talk to Small Children About Divorce

When two people decide to get a divorce, they often think about the impact the process will have on their small children. After all, divorce drastically alters the daily routines of any family. If you are going through a divorce, you may be trying to find ways to carefully share this information with your small children. It is understandable that you want to present the information in a manner that leaves your children feeling secure and loved.

There are many effective ways for you to help your children adjust to your divorce. Here is a guideline that will help you talk to your small children about divorce.

Toddlers

During this stage, young children develop meaning about the world around them. They learn to count on the consistency of familiar routines. Divorce changes these routines. As a result, toddlers may become insecure. It is essential that you maintain a sense of structure for your toddler children. Discuss their feelings about the separation. Reassure your children that they did not cause the separation.

Preschool Children

As children progress through this stage, they feel as if they have a sense of control over their environment. This control provides them with security and confidence. Divorce challenges this level of certainty. Children will resist the separation at all costs. As you prepare your preschool age children for your divorce, provide an environment in which it is safe to share their feelings. Children in this age group need as much support and structure as toddlers.

School Age Children

In this age group, children will have strong feelings about divorce. They may unite with one parent, and blame another. Another thing they will do is exhibit behavior problems because they are angry. It is important for you to patiently guide your children through any anger or abandonment issues that may be a consequence of your divorce. Let your children know that you or your spouse will not abandon them. Provide them with ample opportunities to discuss their feelings without being judged or criticized.

In the beginning of the process, your children will have to overcome negative feelings and sadness. By providing your children with the proper tools to handle your divorce, you can help them successfully adjust to their new way of life.

Tips For Bonding With Your Stepchild

Being a stepparent is often equal parts rewarding and challenging, particularly when it comes to establishing the initial bond with children in a newly blended family. By taking the time to get to know each child individually, and respecting personal boundaries and emotional needs, beautiful relationships can grow and thrive.

The following are a set of helpful tips to aid any stepparent seeking to nurture a healthy bond with the children in their blended family.

Plan Quality Time

One excellent way to bond with your stepchild is to plan a solo outing. This may seem intimidating at first, but it is a necessary step in building a quality relationship.

Here are some factors to bear in mind:

  • Include an activity you can both enjoy, but do not force any more intimacy than the child is comfortable with.
  • Do not attempt to bribe the child. This will set up an unhealthy dynamic where you will be expected to cater to every whim.
  • Make conversation, but do not force the parental role. Allow the child to lead any discussion and be comfortable with silence if necessary.
  • Be prepared to engage in regular outings. Relationships take time to build, and you will need to be patient while the child adjusts to your presence. Trust will build over time.

Alternative Approaches

If your stepchild is not comfortable with going on outings or spending quality time together, it may be a matter of getting to know each other better in a comfortable setting. The best way to break this barrier to intimacy is to go straight through it. Do not feel rejected if the child refuses your attempts at communication and bonding. Keep trying to engage the child while respecting his or her personal space. The idea is to make the child feel welcome, appreciated and included — whether that child chooses to participate in activities or not.

Boundary Testing

Children will test boundaries. This is normal behavior, and it is especially true for a stepchild who wants to see how far they can push you. Practice patience, but do not be afraid to assert yourself and your opinions of any inappropriate behavior. By presenting a united front with the biological parent, the child will come to accept the new situation and show more respect to the person whom mom or dad has chosen as their new life partner.

Blending families is a slow process that pays big rewards. Patience and understanding create the foundation of strong emotional bonds between parents and stepchildren.

Avoiding The Guilt Traps Of Divorced Parents

Divorce is a difficult and trying life event, which can have a negative emotional impact on the couple splitting, as well as and, most importantly, their children. Although there may be no specific set of guidelines for divorced parents to follow, they can avoid a number of pitfalls that could make an already tough situation worse.

Avoid Being Unaccommodating

This is particularly true in the case of the parent who is moving out of the family house. An important part of helping your children through the divorce process is providing them with as comfortable and as stable of a living environment as possible.

If it is you who is moving into a new residence, it is critical to choose a place where your children will feel “at home.” Make sure they will have a room to sleep in. In addition, do not turn the place into a bachelor/bachelorette pad. Decorate the new place with items from the old house and be sure to hang pictures of your children on the walls or place on desks. If you are remaining in the family home, do not rush to pack away anything your ex might have left behind and avoid rearranging furniture or doing any major redecorating for a while.

Do Not Speak Ill Of Your Former Spouse

When you speak badly about your ex, past hurt is rehashed, which places your children in the middle of a delicate situation. The split has been hard enough on them as it is. It is unfair to place yet another emotional burden on their shoulders. It is more advisable to hold your ex in the highest light possible. Highlight his or her personal and professional accomplishments and always insist your children show him or her the same level of respect you would want them to display to you.

Do Not Date Until The Divorce Is Official

Wait until one facet of your life is complete before delving into another one. Dating prematurely can confuse your children and give them more emotional burdens than they are yet prepared to handle. It is recommended you use the time until the divorce is finalized as an opportunity to let your children adjust to what will be a new life and circumstances.

Do Not Forget About Your Kids

Include your children in your new life. Invite them to your new place, call them frequently and attend their athletic and scholastic events.

Do Not Spoil Your Children

There is no shame in providing your kids what they need and purchasing gifts when and where appropriate, but it can be deleterious to spoil them. Children are smart and can see through this tactic; drawing the conclusion you are trying to “buy them off” to assuage your guilt over what happened.

When in doubt, consult with a professional divorce attorney who can assist you in avoiding the typical pitfalls of divorce – and help you make a smooth transition into your new lifestyle.

Checklist for New Parents

Becoming a new parent is an overwhelming but exciting time. There is so much to learn and so much to process before the baby arrives. Whether you are part of a couple giving birth, adopting, or a single parent bringing new life into the world, here are a few things to consider before your bundle of joy arrives.

Health Insurance

One of the first things to look into is how much your insurance will cover of your pregnancy, delivery, and hospital stay. If you are considering a midwife, or a method of birth that does not involve a hospital stay, be sure to research what your insurance will and will not cover. Another pro tip: look into how to add your child to your health insurance before they arrive as well.

Maternity & Family Leave

A lot of moms-to-be anticipate the conversation they will need to have with their boss. Chances are, the company you work for has a maternity leave policy already in place. Consider talking to the HR department, or reviewing the corporate notebook. You should also find out whether that policy falls in line with federal and state laws regarding family and medical leave. Don’t forget to ask about Paternity Leave. More employers than ever are also offering this benefit to fathers to assist in the first weeks of a new baby in the home.

Choosing a Pediatrician

Another important and big step: your baby’s pediatrician should be chosen before the birth of the baby. Take your time with this search, and interview potential candidates. Consider asking trusted family members and friends for recommendations, as well as your primary doctor or OB/Gyn.

Child Care

There are many choices for childcare. Talk with your partner about your options, consult family members, day care centers, and think about looking into home childcare. A popular option for some parents is to hire a nanny to lend a helping hand part or full time once mom and/or dad has to return to work.

Planning for the Future

One of the most important decisions you can make is choosing the godparents for your child(ren). The guardian(s) should be someone trustworthy and ready to take on the responsibility of caring for your child, should anything happen to you and your partner.

Life Insurance & College Savings

Now that your family has expanded, it is time to decide whether to increase your insurance coverage, or buy insurance for the first time in your life. Along those lines, it is never too early to think about saving for college. The way you save is up to you. Whether it is an account in the child’s name, or savings bonds and CDs, there are so many ways to start saving today.

Estate Planning!!!

After all the above considerations have been made, there is a step that absolutely should be taken, yet so many young families overlook this step until it is possibly too late. Consult your attorney about setting up a Will and other documents that reflect how you want your child cared for in the event of your death or incapacitation. This truly does not have to be expensive and does not take much time. Make estate planning a priority.

We know how much there is to consider, and what a great and wonderful responsibility becoming a new parent is. It can be immensely helpful to have a guide assisting you on this incredible path. Consider seeking the counsel of a family law attorney to ensure your family is protected in all the ways you want them to be.

Relationship Tips For Moms and Stepmoms

Blended families are common these days, which means biological mothers and stepmothers are co-parenting children. It can be a difficult course to navigate when dealing with an ex-wife or the new partner of an ex-husband, but the following tips can help both types of moms find a happy medium.

Communication

Communication is important in any relationship, but especially when children are involved. All information regarding the children should be passed on in a timely fashion to avoid frustration and escalation of serious issues.

Consideration

Calendars should be shared to avoid conflicts with events, appointments or travel. Under no circumstances should anything be scheduled with the intention of being inconvenient.

Respect

Both mothers should respect one another, especially when the children are present. This includes being aware of personal boundaries and not bringing up the past. If there is a personality conflict, keep it private. Children see and hear everything, and they will emulate adult behavior.

Maturity

As a stepmom, trying to buy the affection of a partner’s children may seem like an easy way to their hearts, but this often backfires. Children can see through the act, which may imply the stepmom is trying to be a replacement parent. The best approach is to not treat parenting as a competition. There is enough love for everyone.

Recognition

Encourage children to recognize the importance of the stepmother in their lives by celebrating her birthday and giving her a card and gift on Mother’s Day. Having a blended holiday celebration may help kids feels less awkward about acknowledgment.

Inclusion

During birthdays or other important milestone events in a child’s life, including the biological mother and stepmother at the celebration is a wonderful way to be inclusive and encourage positive relations. It also helps children avoid feeling conflicted during family parties and other get-togethers.

Acceptance

It can be difficult to deal with the fact that an ex-partner has chosen a new wife or will always be dealing with an ex-wife. The family dynamic changes are permanent but do not have to be negative. Accepting the other woman and the situation will facilitate civility and respect even if there cannot be a true friendship.

Being a mom is hard, and being a stepmom adds an extra layer of challenge. Following the above tips can help resolve strain and allow both parties to foster a respectful and healthy relationship.

5 Skills You Need Before Becoming A Foster Parent

Becoming a foster parent can be infinitely rewarding, and it can provide a calm and loving home to a child in need of stability and care. However, the process of applying to be a foster parent and actually hosting a child in your home can be quite difficult. Here are some skills all potential foster parents need to have before welcoming a foster child to their home.

Patience

Perhaps the top skill future foster parents will need to develop is patience. Patience is critical when interacting with government agencies, concerned friends and family, your own family when they are struggling in the transition, and the foster child you will welcome into your home. Sometimes foster children can exhibit quite challenging behavior, and it is important to remain calm and loving in even the most difficult situation.

Organization

Foster parents need to be organized and educated about foster laws in their state and community. It is important to research the requirements for foster homes and parents in your state in order to know what will be expected of your family. Remember that becoming a foster parent can be a highly bureaucratic process that takes time and organization to complete successfully.

Communication

Foster parents are required to communicate professionally with a wide range of people, including social workers, lawyers and judges, doctors, teachers, and therapists. For this reason, couples considering becoming foster parents should ask themselves if they are ready for this level of responsibility.

Compassion

Potential foster parents need to have compassion. It is important to understand that the child coming into your home may be coming from a very traumatic situation, and he or she may act out in ways that are challenging to handle. Compassion is key in these circumstances. Foster parents also need to have compassion for their own children and their spouse; hosting a foster child can be difficult for the whole family, and it is important to recognize these difficulties and talk about them as a family.

Maintaining Realistic Expectations

Sometimes parents begin the process of accepting a foster child into their home with unrealistic expectations. One expectation is that they will be able to adopt their foster child permanently. While this does happen, remember that most foster children will only stay with your family a short time. In general, most states prefer to place children with suitable relatives if at all possible. Another expectation future foster parents hold is that they will be able to make a miraculous change in their foster child’s life. While foster parents can have a very positive impact on a child’s life, they should not expect dramatic change.