Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bullying – an unfortunate and all too real topic for many children

Bullying – an unfortunate and all too real topic for many children with and without various isms.

Consider the statistics – “as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis.” 

Bullying is insidious.  Bullying has serious and lasting effects on everyone involved including the victims, bullies, and witnesses.

Victims of bullying may develop:

  • higher risk of depression and anxiety
  • increased thoughts about suicide
  • decreased academic achievement and
  • are more likely to have health complaints

Bullies are more likely to:

  • begin abusing alcohol and other drugs
  • drop out of school
  • engage in early sexual activity
  • have criminal convictions
  • be abusive toward spouses or children as adults

Witnesses to bullying are affected too. They have exhibited:

  • increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, and
  • increased mental health problems

Types of Bullying

To know what to do about bullying, it is first important to understand the various types of bullying.  Stomp Out Bullying shares the main types of bullying as follows:

  • Physical Bullying is the most obvious form of intimidation and can consist of kicking, hitting, biting, pinching, hair pulling, and making threats. A bully may threaten to punch you if you don’t give up your money, your lunch, etc.

  • Verbal Bullying often accompanies physical behavior. This can include name calling, spreading rumors, and persistent teasing.

  • Emotional Intimidation is closely related to these two types of bullying. A bully may deliberately exclude you from a group activity such as a party or school outing.
  • Racist Bullying can take many forms: making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures.
  • Sexual Bullying is unwanted physical contact or abusive comments.
  • Cyberbullying is one or a group of kids or teens using electronic means via computers and mobile phones (emails, Web sites, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting) to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass or target another kid or teen.

Signs a Child has Been Bullied

“There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.” states the following warning signs:

  • Damaged/missing belongings (clothing, books, jewelry, electronics)
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Complaints of headaches, stomachaches, illness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Bad dreams
  • Changes in eating habits/May be very hungry after school from not eating lunch
  • Runs away from home
  • Loses interest in friends
  • Afraid to go to school
  • Loses interest in school work
  • Hurts themselves
  • Talks about suicide
  • Appears to feel helpless
  • Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious, depressed
  • Avoids going to certain places
  • Behavior has changed
  • No longer acts like regular self

Although this list can indicate something else is going on, discussing these issues with children is a first step to determine if bullying may be the cause.

Resources to Address Bullying

Here are a few options that can be used at home or in school to address the issue of bullying:


Start with the School

As parents, it is important to open up lines of communication with your child’s teacher, the guidance counselor and even the school nurse.  The child’s teacher more often than not, is not even aware there are issues as most incidents occur outside of the classroom, during recess, at lunch or on the bus.

The school guidance counselor is trained to help kids solve problems, make decisions and to stand up for themselves.  The school counselor may not fix the problem, but can help teach the child coping skills.

The school nurse, an expert in pediatric health, is a crucial member of the team participating in the prevention of bullying in schools. 

However, this is not a be all and end all.  Unfortunately, many schools are not equipped to deal with the issue of bullying appropriately.  You may have to be a change agent and create change within your school culture or secure outside resources.


Social Skills Programs

Children who struggle with social skills are more likely to the target of bullies because their social interactions may be markedly different than that of their peers.  Children with social skill deficits may unintentionally take on the role of a bully as they simply lack impulse control.

Start with the school as they may have or can implement social skill programming through the guidance counselor.  If the school does not offer this programming, look into your community to see if there are any social skills groups.  Speech Therapists and various Professional Counselors offer community social skills groups.


Social Skills Books


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Seeking out private counseling by a cognitive behavioral therapist may be a helpful resource for victims, bullies and even witnesses.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches children “to better understand personal thoughts and feelings related to a situation and how those thoughts and feelings influence actions and responses.”

Children are “unaware of their destructive thoughts and behaviors because they have been using them as coping mechanisms for the unpleasant situations they have suffered through. The experience of being bullied damages the confidence and self image of the victim, making it virtually impossible for him to trust anyone including himself.”

Whether your child is a victim, bully or witness, they may benefit from the therapeutic reframing of negative thoughts – changing their response to negative encounters.  Check your community resources for a cognitive behavioral therapist who works with children.  Schools may consider bringing in a cognitive behavioral therapist to work with children in small groups – over time, this may be what is needed to help trigger a change in the culture of a school with rampant bullying issues.


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