Time in with Dr. Tim

All parents have moments when they wish they could consult with an expert. If you have a question about your tween or teen’s behavior, send it to Dr.Tim@youthvillages.org. If Dr. Tim and his staff of experts feature your question in a column, he’ll change names and other specifically identifying information. For more: www.youthvillages.org; www.janiesfund.org.

My 11-year-old daughter gets teased at school. She is tall for her age, a little overweight and somewhat of a tomboy. She doesn’t fit in with the “cool” girls at school. Frankly, I’m glad because those girls act a lot older than they are and engage in activities that I think girls their age are too young for. Nevertheless, the mean words these girls say and write on Facebook are devastating to my daughter. How can I help her?

This is a tough situation. I’m sorry that your daughter is going through this, but these peer problems often are a part of growing up. You can help your daughter now and she’ll be a step closer to becoming resilient and more able to handle the emotional storms ahead.

First, teasing can be just a nicer word for bullying. You need to talk to your daughter’s teacher, the school counselor, maybe the principal, immediately and see what the situation really is. Schools typically have a no-tolerance policy toward bullying and have ways to help resolve these issues.

Posting negative messages on Facebook or in other social media is a type of cyber bullying and has led to a teenager’s suicide. It should not be taken lightly. You should talk to the parents of the youth who are posting these messages and get this activity stopped. The parents may not be aware their children are posting negative comments.

It’s important to help your daughter take positive steps. Help her think of positive peers she can be friends with at school, in the community or within a religious group. If your daughter has an interest in an extracurricular activity, encourage her to join a school or community group that focuses on this activity. Participation in a pro-social activity will increase her self-confidence.

Finally, 11-year-olds are really too young to have Facebook accounts. In fact, Facebook’s user agreement states she must be 13 to participate. Children don’t have the maturity to handle inappropriate comments posted on the social media site and don’t fully understand the negative consequences that occur if they post inappropriate comments and/or photos. Something that may seem funny or cute could embarrass them or hurt the feelings of someone else. Close her account until she is a little older.

Take this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your daughter. Give her more time and attention, and one day you two may look back on this event as a positive step toward growing up.

Dr. Tim Goldsmith is chief clinical officer for Youth Villages in Memphis, Tenn., a leading national nonprofit dedicated to providing solutions to help emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. Youth Villages, which helps more than 22,000 troubled children and families from more than 20 states each year, is a force for families offering useful parenting information for tweens and teens. Got a question for Dr. Tim? Go to www.youthvillages.org