Bullying is a buzz word across schools, with prevention programs and educational awareness tailored to showcase the definition, as well as identify and help reduce bullying within schools.
According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every five student reports being bullied, however, 64 percent of those who were bullied did not report it.
While there is no legal definition of bullying, bullying can be described as a repeated behavior toward someone with intent to physically or emotionally harm that person, and can take on many forms including verbal assaults, physical violence, spreading rumors about that person and cyberbullying.
The effects of bullying can contribute to poor self-esteem, academic performance and feelings of isolation and can lead to additional mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression. However, studies have also found that those who are doing the bullying are also at greater risk of mental health concerns, substance abuse and violence later in adulthood.
Many times, children are afraid of alerting others about being bullied for fear of retaliation or because of guilt or embarrassment. However, there are some warning signs that might alert you to your child being bullied, such as changes in sleep or eating patterns, mood changes, including expressing or showing more anxiety or worry, or reluctance to participate in normal activities, such as refusal to go on the school bus or to school.
Suggestions for Helping Your Child
If you suspect your child is being bullied, consider the following:
- Identify round-about ways to bring up bullying, such as commenting on a TV or magazine article and offering ways to help them deal with bullying if it happens to them or a friend.
- Be empathetic to their worries and calmly offer them support and ask how you can help.
- Let them know that sharing the bullying situation is extremely brave and courageous and that you are proud that they confided in you.
- Contact the school or activity center at which the bullying is happening and ask what their bullying policy for reporting and reprimanding and requesting they get involved in handling the situation.
- Encourage your child to use their school’s bully system if available. Many schools after a Bully Box or other system to anonymously express concerns over bullying so that the one being bullied feels safe sharing the situation and allowing the adult to handle the negative behavior.
- Suggest that your child walk away and ignore the bully and not engage with him/her.
- Encourage them to talk to an adult, principal or a therapist about their feelings to help build confidence and self-esteem.
If you suspect your child is struggling with anxiety or depression connected to bullying, please contact a local mental health therapist to provide your child a safe and secure environment to express their fears, worries and concerns and to identify ways to restore confidence and self-esteem.
Erin Swinson, LPC, LMHCA
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center (December 8, 2016). Bullying Statistics. Retrieved on March 23, 2017 from http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp
Counselling Directory (n.d.) Bullying. Retrieved on March 23, 2017 from http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/bullying.html.
The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth (1995). Helping Kids Deal with Bullies. Retrieved on March 23, 2017 from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bullies.html#