Friday, January 20, 2012

Safety First: Bullying

A haunting issue was brought to my attention recently. An issue we (unfortunately) hear often about but tend to dismiss because we do not feel it affects us directly or we are involved in an immediate kind of way.

Nevertheless, it remains a parent's biggest fear: Bullying.

Just the thought of it panics me. I imagine Mia, helpless, taunted (or worse) at school or on some playground and I just want to shoot the whole world!

So how can we protect our children?

How can we keep them safe?

Of course, we have to come to terms with the horrifying and cruel reality that our little ones will undoubtedly get hurt, some day, somehow, and we cannot always be around to shield them from harm. 

But we can and we should definitely arm them to understand and know how to protect and defend themselves when we are away.

It all begins with understanding what the danger is. In this particular case, bullies.

A definition would be a good start because many parents may not understand or even acknowledge the magnitude of bullying or all that it entails.

Unfortunately, bullies at school or elsewhere are children, just like their victims and maybe if their parents could recognize that behavior in their own kids, they could teach them how to grow up into better, kinder human beings. 

Moreover, bullying is not a behavior limited to young ones and adults everywhere may very well display such conduct with others, and worse, in front of impressionable children who will mimic what their parents do. Therefore, recognizing bullying in our own behavior is also key to remedy this epidemic of violence. 

So what is bullying?

Stop Bullying .Gov gives a concise yet straight to the point definition:

Bullying is a widespread and serious problem that can happen anywhere. It is not a phase children have to go through, it is not "just messing around", and it is not something to grow out of. Bullying can cause serious and lasting harm.  
Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying involves:
  • Imbalance of Power:
  • people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves  
  • Intent to Cause Harm:
  • actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm 
  • Repetition:
  • incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group 
Types of Bullying 
Bullying can take many forms. Examples include:
  • Verbal:
  • name-calling, teasing 
  • Social:
  • spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships 
  • Physical:
  • hitting, punching, shoving 
  • Cyberbullying:
  • using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others
An act of bullying may fit into more than one of these groups.

What I believe to be the most important part to reiterate and remember is that bullying "is not just messing around".

It is not cute and it is not excusable with the simple claim that it is "harmless", "funny" or a "joke".

It is intentional harm and it must only be viewed as such. Even (or should I say especially) when the harm is not physical because this is when boundaries can easily (and intentionally) be blurred.

It should also be understood that dismissing bullying behavior is another way of condoning it and being part of the brutality. A person who comes forward to denounce bullying should always be treated with serious consideration otherwise, they will feel harassed all over again. And rightfully so.

No parent will ever want to hear their child is terrorizing others. It is not easy being unbiased when it comes to our loved ones. And it is impossible to remain detached when it comes to our own kids. However, it is crucial to remain as impartial and objective as possible.

A child bullying his peers is not to be praised for displaying signs of self-confidence and assurance.

Violence is violence. Brutality is brutality. Harm is harm. They are very different from strength of character and certainty in one's own abilities. 

It is also important to remember that bullying is delinquent conduct that could very well develop into risky or criminal behavior so addressing the issue is key in preventing possible future, far more disturbing troubles. 

How can I know if my child is a bully?

Stop Bullying .Gov identifies a few warning signs that can be useful in recognizing bullying; the child:
  • Becomes violent with others 
  • Gets into physical or verbal fights with others 
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot 
  • Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained 
  • Is quick to blame others 
  • Will not accept responsibility for their actions 
  • Has friends who bully others 
  • Needs to win or be best at everything
Some people who at risk for bullying others are well-connected to their peers, have social power, and at least one of the following:
  • Are overly concerned about their popularity 
  • Like to dominate or be in charge of others 
Others at risk for bullying others are more isolated from their peers and may have any of the following:
  • Are depressed or anxious 
  • Have low self esteem 
  • Are less involved in school 
  • Are easily pressured by peers 
  • Do not identify with the emotions or feelings of others 
Other risk factors for bullying others include the following:
  • Being aggressive 
  • Have less parent involvement 
  • Think badly of others 
  • Are impulsive 
  • Are hot-headed and easily frustrated 
  • Have difficulty following rules 
  • View violence in a positive way

Of course, these are not the only criteria to distinguish bullies, and they do not necessarily mean a child is harassing his peers, but they can be a start. Once addressed, these signs can help parents understand whether they are dealing with bullying or not, and act accordingly.

The suggested solutions proposed by Stop Bullying .Gov are in my (humble) opinion valuable educational tools as they should be used with all children regardless of their behavior. They can help instill and maintain positive behaviors:  
  • Talk with your child. Ask for their account of the situation. Be objective and listen carefully. Calmly explain what your child is accused of and ask for an explanation of the incident and their role. 
  • Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously. Calmly let them know that you will not tolerate this behavior. Help your child learn that bullying hurts everyone involved. 
  • Develop clear and consistent rules for your child's behavior. Praise your child when they follow the rules. Decide on fair consequences and follow through if your child breaks the rules. 
  • Spend more time with your child. Carefully supervise and monitor their activities, including when they are online or texting. 
  • Be aware of who your child's friends are. Find out how they spend their free time. 
  • Build on your child's talents and positive attributes. Encourage him or her to get involved in social activities. 
  • Work with your child’s school to ensure the bullying does not happen again. Ask the school to keep you informed. Develop strategies together to address bullying. Work together to send clear messages to your child that the bullying must stop. 
  • Talk with a school counselor or health professional. They may be able to provide your child with additional help.

How can I know if my child is being bullied?

Again, Stop Bullying .Gov proposes a checklist of possible signs to watch for:
  • Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings 
  • Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry 
  • Has unexplained injuries 
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick 
  • Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams 
  • Has changes in eating habits 
  • Hurts themselves 
  • Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch 
  • Runs away from home 
  • Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends 
  • Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers 
  • Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school 
  • Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home 
  • Talks about suicide 
  • Feels helpless 
  • Often feels like they are not good enough 
  • Blames themselves for their problems 
  • Suddenly has fewer friends 
  • Avoids certain places 
  • Acts differently than usual
Generally, children, teens and young adults who are bullied: 
  • Do not get along well with others 
  • Are less popular than others 
  • Have few to no friends 
  • Do not conform to gender norms 
  • Have low self esteem 
  • Are depressed or anxious

So how can we fight bullying?

Stop Bullying .Gov has a few tips that parents can use to prevent their child from being bullied and inculcate basic standards for dealing with bullying (even if the child is not the direct victim).
Bullying is not a normal rite of passage. It can have serious consequences. You can help your child learn how to prevent bullying.
  • Help your child understand bullying.
  • Explain what bullying is. It is more than physical; it can be done in person or over the phone or computer. 
  • Keep open lines of communication with your child.
  • Check in with your child and listen to any concerns about friends and other students. 
  • Encourage your child to pursue their interests.
  • Doing what they love may help your child be more confident among their peers and make friends with other kids with similar interests. 
  • Teach your child to take a stand against bullying.
  • Give guidance about how to stand up to those who bully if it is safe to do so. 
  • Talk to your child about seeking help from a trusted adult when feeling threatened by a bully.
  • Talk about whom they should go to for help and role-play what they should say. Assure your child that they should not be afraid to tell an adult when someone they know is being bullied. 
  • Know what is going on in your child's school.
  • Visit the school website, subscribe to the student paper—if there is one—and join the PTA listserv or mailing list. Get to know other parents, school counselors, and staff. Contact the school by phone or e-mail if you have suggestions to make the school a safer and better learning place.


Your child needs to understand that you have zero tolerance for bullying and you should believe that as well and act accordingly in order to promote a healthier environment and lead by example.

But parents cannot fight that war alone and all the stakeholders within your child's environment must contribute to the building of this positive atmosphere.

The very first and most important step is to report all and any incident to the school's administration (if the incident happened on school grounds) or any other relevant authority regulating the location where the incident took place. That is essential for that organization to support you in your immediate case but also in taking preemptive measures.

Then it is crucial your child receives professional help and guidance.

Finally, you can launch preemptive campaigns with the help of the school (or any other relevant authority) to raise awareness and hopefully prevent harm and violence from occurring. Get the school involved through large scale initiatives and have them teach not only the students about bullying's dangers and how to protect themselves but also train staff and faculty members to recognize and intervene efficiently  if and immediately when bullying occurs.

In Lebanon

Since I am currently in Beirut, and the event that prompted today's post took place in Lebanon, I sought professional advice there.

There is an NGO called Child Of Lebanon (Facebook) that champions children rights and aims at building child protection initiatives and programs. They offer trainings and awareness campaigns on school ground provided the school administration requests such programs in the first place.

You can contact them by email at or phone on +961.1.611630 / +961.9.936932.

A directory of all their experts, including personal contact information, is available on the NGO's website.

In the UAE

I will definitely update this post once I am back in Dubai. I have come across many health professionals and organizations with similar goals and I am certain I can find useful references once I am in town.


Links to Safety First and Foremost posts:

Mamma Mia

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fear Factor

On Friday 13 at 13:00 hours we had a doctor's appointment for Mia's follow up vaccine. 

Yes, I know, it would have looked so much more dramatic if it would have been next year, and the date would have been Friday 13, 2013 at 13:00 hours. But we will do with whatever drama we can get our hands on. And believe me, we have got plenty.

Strangely enough, the roads were fluid, and we reached the hospital half an hour before our appointment. 

Just to be clear, if we owned a helicopter, the time needed from our home to Clemenceau Medical Center would be in all honesty, half a minute. But it usually takes us half an hour to get there. That is part of the perks of living in the middle of Hamra.

That is also probably because our appointments are usually around 14:30 and 15:00 which means the schools closing time, exactly. Hence the congested tiny streets and brutal traffic jams. Not to mention, the bonus offensive and crude behavior of exasperated uncivil drivers.

In any case, 13 seemed to be a good number so far.

Mia was happy and playing in the car, babbling and babbling and describing in her own personal language, every little detail her hungry eyes could catch. 

And within minutes, we had reached CMC

Usually (especially when it is raining like these days) we leave the car with the valet because it is simply easier and quicker to get to the appointment (especially when we are generally just on time, and by just on time, I mean dangerously borderline late). 

But today, they stopped us. Apparently, the hospital was so much over capacity that, not only the five underground floors were full, but the passages to these parkings were also filled with cars, stuck one after the next until they reached the main road at the hospital entrance!

Somehow, the man just ahead of us left his car in front of the valet desk and entered the building. So we thought, fine, let us do the same. Well we thought wrong. The valet came and asked us to move the car; in other words, go back into the traffic jam that had piled up in front of the hospital and drive to the nearest public parking.

Of course, we were in shock. Why would the man right in front of us be allowed to park and not us? While we were not causing any more harm than he was since there was still a large way for cars to drive by us, and even room for a couple more to park behind us! (which they did)

So we simply got out of the car, told the valet that we would only be treated like the man right before us and walked to the clinic. 

Apparently, with a little bit of determination, 13 was still working fine.

The second we got in, Mia turned silent. It was as if someone had pushed the mute button! And the more all of us got comfy in the waiting room, the more Mia got worried. 

And the dreaded moment arrived: the nurse called us to weigh and measure our little bundle of stress. Every time she enters that exam room, she goes insane, although it is not where she gets her shots. But still, she knows that following that scale, a syringe is coming!

Somehow, I got her occupied with a window and we managed to get everything done with just a teeny bit of fussing. A miracle! 

13 was really working for us.

But less than a minute later, we were invited to the doctor's office. Mia immediately recognized her pediatrician and just grabbed on me like a little crab in panic. She would turn her head towards Dr. J, throw a glance, and quickly look away. Getting her tiny claws deeper and deeper in my skin!

Well, we all knew we would enter the hazardous twilight zone of Friday 13, eventually. 

As usual, Dr. J was awesome. She tried to comfort Mia and even placed her on my lap to complete the exam. That didn't stop the little screaming crab from crying her heart out, but somehow, not as fiercely as the previous times. And it even appears the shot was not really painful. She was in tears... Because she was afraid.


Somehow, that is all that we got that day. Fear.

Well isn't it what Friday 13 is all about? 

I cannot remember who on my timeline tweeted that there are three Friday 13 this year, and they are 13 weeks apart... Oooh... Spooky, right? Actually, all things considered and reviewing how that last doctor's appointment went, I might very well schedule all of Mia's visits to the pediatrician's on those days!


Mamma Mia

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Safety First of Foremost

Time flies so quickly! One day you're hugging that tiny bundle of wrinkles that can hardly hold her head unassisted and the next, she's twirling all around you like a tornado. I call her TsunaMia. And when she's on the move, you'd better look for shelter because that's no weather to venture out.

One of our solutions? The cot-bed

Does that slow the little Duracell Bunny down? If course not. But at least it keeps her confined, leaving her a very restricted area to move around. At first sight, it may look like the safest place ever. But any environment should be proofed and safety measures must be taken, even in the most obviously safe spaces. 

I am no safety expert but I thought it'd be helpful to share tips and tricks based on personal experiences. I would love comments and/or advices by other moms and dads out there should they ever pass by this blog :)

So back to our cot-cage :)

In Dubai, we have the beautiful Chloe white wooden bed by Mamas and Papas carefully padded with cushioning which worked fine for a while. Why? Simply because Mia was not independently mobile then.

However, since we've come to Beirut, Mia has started to walk in her travel cot. Only problem is, her head and shoulders are now higher than the borders which means that if she trips, and she does often, chances are she may hit her head against the plastic corners or the hard borders which are quite painful. 

So, since the walking began, new rules have been established which I will gladly share with you. These are some tricks I believe all parents should take into account. 
  • Try finding paddings for the corners and even for the four borders if available. Baby will always try to tear them apart, but if the size is accurate, they should hold on tight.
  • Never leave baby unattended and if you have to step away for a few moments, make sure you only leave soft toys in the bed. When baby's on the move, particularly on the unstable base that is a mattress, tripping will happen. You don't want baby to fall face first on something hard.
  • Baby will use hard (and soft) toys as steppers to climb higher, in the hope of escaping that cot-cage. Hard toys will provide for good climbing aids so make sure they are not high enough for baby to be high enough to lean on the border. I have found Mia once, stepping on a plastic bucket, diving head first and ready to jump/fall out of the bed!
  • Also, do not leave small toys  or any other objects baby can swallow or choke on. Keep the cot uncluttered. 
  • The holes of the net must be smaller than baby's fingers so that they don't get trapped and injured as baby tries to stand up.
  • Always lock the cot's brakes. 
  • If baby is in a bed like Mia's Chloe, then you must make sure it is padded properly. Gaps between the bars are dangerous as arms, legs and even heads may get stuck. Make sure the bed you choose adheres to international safety standards.
  • The gap between the mattress and the cot sides must be minimal (less than 20mm).
  • If toys like mobiles are hanging over baby's head, make sure they are not accessible once baby can stand up.  
  • Keep toys with stretch or elastic cords away from baby. Similarly, toys that work on batteries should be carefully proofed. If the batteries are not safely locked with screws, do not leave the toy within baby's reach. 
  • Check for bolts, knobs and corner posts that might catch onto baby’s clothing and cause distress or strangulation. 
  • When positioning the cot, whether permanently or temporarily, make sure there are no curtains or blind cords to avoid any strangulation hazard. Always keep away from heaters, stoves and power points as well as pictures, mirrors or hanging objects which could fall on or near baby. Mia is notorious for pulling even larger furniture like chairs if she can reach them!
  • Avoid pillows for children under two years old. Blankets can also be replaced with sleeping bags which are very practical: they ensure all night warmth as baby cannot uncover while remaining far away from baby's face hence allowing for proper breathing space. Of course, never use electric blankets or hot bottles for babies or young children.
  • And with Number 2 on the way, I should keep newborn babies in mind too. Before baby can sit up, the mattress can be on a higher position to spare mom and dad from back pain. However, once baby can sit up, the mattress must be on the lowest position. 

That's all I can think of for now regarding Cot Beds.

I'm happy to add or amend these tips should you have any comments or suggestions.


Links to Safety First and Foremost posts:

Mamma Mia

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wool is *the* fabric this season!

Apparently, hubby and I celebrated our Wool Anniversary yesterday.

Yep. Aha. Wool.

I think I was supposed to get him a sweater or something... Who knows. Actually, Wikipedia knows. And  since I feel it's my duty to share knowledge on this blog, here you go:
The names of some anniversaries provide guidance for appropriate or traditional gifts for the spouses to give each other; if there is a party these can be brought by the guests or influence the theme or decoration. These gifts vary in different countries, but some years have well-established connections now common to most nations: 5th Wooden, 10th Tin, 15th Crystal, 20th China, 25th Silver, 30th Pearl, 40th Ruby, 50th Golden, 60th Diamond.
Traditional and Modern Anniversary Gifts
Lists of wedding anniversary gifts vary by country. The traditional and modern U.S. versions were compiled by librarians at the Chicago Public Library. The origins of what is listed here as the "modern" US gift conventions date to 1937. Before that, only the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries had an associated gift. In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association (now known as Jewelers of America as a result of an organizational merger) introduced an expanded list of gifts. The revamped list gave a gift for each year up to the 20th, and then for every five-year anniversary after that.

YearTraditional (U.S.)Traditional (UK)[12][13]Modern (U.S.)
3rdLeatherCrystal, glass
4thLinen, silkFruit and flowersAppliances
6thIronSugarWood objects
7thWool, copperWoollenDesk sets
8thBronzeSaltLinens, lace
9thPotteryCopperLeather goods
11thSteelFashion jewelry
12thSilkSilk and fine linenPearls, colored gems
13thLaceTextiles, furs
14thIvoryGold jewelry
16thSilver holloware
23rdSilver plate
24thMusical instruments
26thOriginal pictures
29thNew furniture
(e.g., automobiles)
36thBone china
38thBeryl, tourmaline
42ndImproved real estate
46thOriginal poetry tribute
48thOptical goods
(e.g., telescope, microscope)
49thLuxuries, any kind
65thBlue sapphire
75thDiamond, goldDiamond, gold
80thOak[17][18]Diamond, pearl
85thWineDiamond, sapphire
90thStone (granite)Diamond, emerald
95thDiamond, ruby
100th10-carat diamond
(Source: Wikipedia)

So it seems "sweater" was not the right answer. Apparently, a "desk set" would have been the perfect gift for hubby this year. How so very romantic. That's alright. You live, you learn. Next year, I'll get him some linens. I'm sure he'll be grateful.

Because let's face it, the Flowers are not really that hot either. For hubby that is. Unless it's an iLilac (since this is the flower to gift on an 8th anniversary) that can somehow connect to his iPad and grow on its own, and most importantly without water. Then maybe he'd give gardening a shot.

Until then, he'll keep on ignoring my plants in my absence, and burry them one after the next in the vast graveyard of my despair.

Yes, seven years of marriage will turn you into a poet.

Or a really good knitter: a sweater made with love is so much sweeter than a desk set, don't you think? That can't be a coincidence that "sweater" and "sweeter" look and sound so much alike.

So here's to you and me, hubby! 
Happy anniversary my darling. 

And many more glorious returns filled with Mia, Number 2, love, good food and lots of jewelry. Please don't feel like you have to wait another 93 years before you get me a gigantic 10 carat diamond. And seriously, if on our 44th anniversary you get me groceries, we're through! (That table of gifts is absolutely ridiculous!)

Happy New Year everyone! May 2012 bring you all you wish for, and more. And most importantly good health and love in abundance!

Mamma Mia

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