Bullying Prevention Month: What Parents Should Know, What They Can Do
- Bullying is never acceptable, and according to the National Bullying Prevention Center, more than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school every day from fear of being bullied.
- Signs of bullying may include a reluctance to go to school or frequent visits to the nurse’s office. Other changes may include a sudden drop in grades, a fear of new people or feeling nervous around people, a dramatic change in style of dressing, making remarks about feeling lonely or physical marks such as bruises or cuts.
- If your child exhibits any of these signs, consider them important clues for further inquiry.
October is national Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is never acceptable, and according to the National Bullying Prevention Center, more than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school every day from fear of being bullied.
“Bullying behavior is not always easy to recognize. A fight between friends or siblings or rough play between children with equal power is conflict, not bullying. It is only bullying when a person or group of people try to intentionally use their power to hurt, frighten, threaten or exclude another person. Additionally, once bullying begins it tends to be recurrent,” says Rima Himelstein, M.D., director of Adolescent Medicine at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and the Smedley Wellness Center.
“It is important to talk to your child in elementary school about bullying,” suggests Himelstein. “Explain the difference between being teased vs. being bullied.”
She continues that bullying can take place anywhere; however, it often takes place at school. Bullying affects not just those children and teens that are bullying or being bullied, but also children and teens that see it happening or “bystanders.” A person can be a bully, a victim, or both.
Types of bullying include emotional, verbal, physical, racist, sexual and cyber bullying. Most victims of bullying remain silent out of fear of retaliation or shame. Signs may be subtle, such as a reluctance to go to school or frequent visits to the nurse’s office. Less subtle changes may include a sudden drop in grades, a fear of new people or feeling nervous around people, a dramatic change in style of dressing, making remarks about feeling lonely or physical marks such as bruises or cuts. If your child exhibits any of these signs, consider them important clues for further inquiry.
As a parent, it is important to listen to your child. Take all complaints seriously and listen supportively. By the time your child tells you that he or she is being bullied, the problem may have been going on for a long time. If bullying is going on at school, contact the child’s principal emergently. Find out if the school has a bully-prevention and intervention program and work with them. It may be necessary to seek professional help and join support groups.
The website www.kidshealth.org suggests ways to improve a bullying situation:
- Avoid being alone and use the buddy system. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways or at recess, especially in places where your child may encounter the bully.
- Remove the incentive. If the bully is demanding your child’s lunch money then send a box lunch.
- Encourage your child to “stay cool.” The bully wants to upset your child and that can make it worse.
- Teach your child to address the bully in a self-assured, controlled manner.
- Encourage your child to take action by reporting future incidences immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who have a higher likelihood of being bullied are more likely to have friendship difficulties, poor self-esteem, and a quiet, passive personality with lack of assertiveness. Bullying can increase their risk of academic problems and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, psychosomatic problems such as headaches, anxiety, depression, suicide, and drug problems.
Some of the factors that are associated with a higher likelihood of being a bully include impulsivity, harsh parenting by caregivers, and attitudes accepting of violence. Children who bully are also at risk for serious future problems. It is estimated that 1 out of 4 elementary-school bullies will have a criminal record by the time they are 30. Some teen bullies end up being rejected by their peers, failing in school, and not having a career or meaningful relationship.
To find a physician or psychiatrist near you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).