by Diane E. Burdick, Ed.S.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. First, let’s just lay it out: bullying and relational aggression (either through passive measures or overt intimidation) is not normal and is not okay. No matter the circumstances, meanness and bullying are never warranted.
Words hurt, too.
It’s also important to note that bullying isn’t just physical– especially in our world of text and social-media bullying. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is simply dead wrong. When a peer treats another child cruelly, it can have long-lasting impacts. Bruises can heal, but the emotional scars of bullying can last a lifetime.
And, bullying is unfortunately very common. A NCES study from the U.S. Department of Education reported that more than 31% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 were bullied at school.
But, most parents and teachers aren’t even aware of when it happens. Why? Unless your child confesses to being bullied (which is rare), the signs can be difficult to see. So, just what should parents and teachers look for?
Top signs that something’s wrong at school:
• Social anxiety
• Peer rejection
• Lowering grades
• Loneliness or depression
• Complaints of poor health
• Decreased use of electronic media
What should you do next?
Inform: Once bullying has been identified, teachers and parents should report it to the proper authorities; this includes school administration and other teachers, coaches, or bus drivers who supervise both the bully and the victim during the day.
Document: If possible, parents should document when and where the bullying reportedly occurred. Include dates, times and locations of the incidents, as well as names of witnesses. In cases of bullying over the Internet, print transcripts of e-mails or chat sessions that can serve as proof of the incidents.
Address: Then, address the issue with both children. There is a lot of shame involved in being bullied, so reinforce to the victim that they did nothing to cause or deserve the treatment. This is a hard truth to believe, so keep reinforcing it. As for the bully, ensure that consequences are carried out by the administration, parents, or–hopefully–both. If everyone commits to working together, the cycle of abuse can be stopped.
For tips to share with kids who are being bullied on how to stand up for themselves, see this article from kidshealth.org.