Do you remember that time in high school when those "other" kids
commented on your eccentric style choices? Or perhaps they pushed you
around a bit when no was looking. If your answer is yes, then you’ve
been a victim of bullying. Back then bullying seemed like it was a natural
part of growing up, and perhaps it was. But today, bullying has become
a serious issue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, up to 20 percent
of children in middle and high school were bullied. “Bullying is
a serious problem that should not be ignored or taken lightly,” says
Reema Basu, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. “Research has shown that bullying has been linked to a decrease
in academic performance, an increase in violent behavior, mental health
problems and substance abuse. It has also been known to contribute to
tragedies such as suicide and mass shootings,” she says.
Bullying comes in many forms, both physical and emotional. Verbal bullying
includes name calling, taunting, verbal threats and inappropriate sexual
comments. Physical bullying includes any act that inflicts bodily harm
such as tripping, kicking and hitting or the destruction of personal property.
Social bullying includes embarrassing the child in public, spreading rumors,
excluding the child from a group or any other form of conduct that would
be considered defamation of character. This also extends to "cyber"
spaces such as Facebook, online chat rooms and any other electronic medium
where videos, images or text-based messages are shared.
“If you think your child is being bullied, it’s important to
act on it,” says Dr. Basu. “Children don’t like to admit
when they are being pushed around at school for fear that it makes them
appear to be weak, or a ‘snitch’ or even worse, a failure
in the eyes of their parents, so it’s important to be able to recognize
the tell-tale signs. Changes in behavior such as anxiety, trouble sleeping,
a lack of interest in the things they normally enjoy, not eating and outbursts
of anger are key signs.”
Dr. Basu advises, “Breaching the subject can be difficult, so find
indirect ways to spark up the conversation.” She recommends using
situations you see on TV or read in the newspaper as an opportunity to
ask your child their opinion. “Ask what they think about what is
happening on the screen or in the story, and ask what they think should
be done about it. This will help them to open up to you in a more indirect
way,” she suggests.
If you think your child is being bullied, here is how you can help:
Encourage them to talk about their troubles. Express your concerns with love and understanding. As parents, its often
difficult to hear that your child is being pushed around, but it’s
important that you remain composed and calm. If your child picks up on
your discomfort, it’s likely that they will clam up. The last thing
they want is to upset you too.
Find out as much as you can. Who was involved, how it happened, what transpired and take notes.
Don’t interrupt, listen and learn. It’s ok to check the details and to convey your concern and express
your understanding, but try not to project your own feelings or emotions.
This can be challenging for parents who have also experienced bullying;
recognize your past experiences as an opportunity that strengthens your
Talk to the principal, teachers and school guidance counselor. Most school systems operate a no tolerance policy to bullying. Guidance
counselors are also a great source of comfort for your child at school;
a trusted person they can talk to. Their office also provides a safe space
for your child should they feel threatened at any time during the school
day. If your child has been physically harmed, you should contact the police.
Praise your child for speaking up and coach them on what to do in future. Bullies choose individuals who they think are less likely to to stand
up for themselves and who they can easily overpower. So encourage your
child to avoid the areas where bullies tend to hang out, and to walk in
pairs or with groups. Let them know that, should they feel unsafe at any
point during the day, there is someone they can go to at school and at home.
Compliment your child often and praise them for the things they are good at. Bullying has a tremendous impact on a child’s self-esteem, so it’s
important to boost their image of self-worth and confidence. Encourage
them to do the things they are good at and reinforce the fact that they
are great just the way they are.
How have you been able to stop incidents of bullying? Share your thoughts
with the community below.
Learn more about
Dr. Basu. Learn more about
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group.