Bullying at school
Recognize signs, involve others
Going back to school can be stressful for many kids, especially if they have been the victims of bullying. According to Youth Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, an organization dedicated to eliminating bullying, an estimated 77 percent of students will experience some form of mental or physical bullying during their school years.
While the statistics are worrisome, there are measures parents and caregivers can take to help identify the signs of bullying and the anxiety it can induce so they can help their children through this difficult situation.
Bullying can take many forms, including hitting, threatening, intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name calling, making sexual remarks, stealing or damaging personal belongings, and indirect attacks such as spreading rumors or getting others to exclude another student.
Today, cyber bullying — bullying through electronic outlets such as text messages and social media sites — has made this issue a 24/7 challenge.
"Bullying can have a significant impact on students," says bullying expert John Nixon. "Children and teenagers who are bullied suffer from anxiety, fear, withdrawal, low self-esteem and poor concentration. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step toward ending the behavior."
Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include:
- Coming home with damaged or missing clothing, books and other belongings
- Unexplained injuries
- Frequent complaints of headaches, stomach aches or feeling sick
- Changes in eating habits (comes home starving because lunch was stolen)
- Loss of interest in friends or going to school
- Asks for money or starts stealing (to pay bully)
- Mood and behavior changes
- Starts stammering
- Doesn't want to go on the school bus
- Trouble sleeping and/or having frequent bad dreams
- Feelings of helplessness or not being good enough
What you can do
Establishing a process for detecting, discussing and monitoring bullying can help in more effectively reaching a solution. "It can be embarrassing for a child to admit that they are being bullied," said Nixon. "And many kids don't tell parents about it because they are afraid of either being blamed for the situation, or they are afraid of how the parents will react."
Nixon offers some tips for what parents and caregivers can do:
Communicate — Ask children questions about how they slept or what they are looking forward to doing in school that day. Their responses can provide a wealth of insight.
Gather more information — Ask teachers if they have noticed anything that would signal the child had been bullied. Also, check a child's text messages and Facebook profile for signs of cyber bullying.
Discuss the problem with the parents of the child who is bullying, if it is appropriate. Talk with your child's teacher(s). If he or she is not responsive, escalate the discussion up to the principal or superintendent if necessary.