Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bullying and Your Child

Bullying is an ever growing issue with our children these days. Three out of four children report having been bullied or teased at school, and approximately 160000 kids miss at least one day of school due to bullying. When I was in school, bullying generally consisted of physical and verbal harassment. However, in today's world, kids not only have to deal with physical and verbal bullying, but with social exclusion and cyber bullying as well. Cyber bullying is the new form of bullying that is rapidly growing, in which kids bully each other through the use of electronics, such as cell phones (texting and picture taking) and through the Internet utilizing social medias like MySpace and Facebook.

Bullies bully for many reasons. Some bully because they like having the feeling of power over other people, thusly they tend to pick on people who are smaller, possibly more emotionally sensitive, or have trouble standing up for themselves. They also use bullying as an attempt to build their self-esteem and feel important. Sometimes it is displaying behavior that has been role modeled in their home. Or possibly they bully because they themselves, have been bullied.

Whatever the reason someone bullies for it can have a serious impact on the person being bullied. Here are some possible signs that your child might be getting bullied:

- Your child starts missing school, or trying to stay home from school
- Your child no longer talks about school
- Your child's grade begin to decline
- Your child has unexplained injuries or ripped clothing
- Your child has a loss of appetite or sleeping problems
- Your child begins withdrawing or having mood swings

As a parent, if your child tells you that they are being bullied, be sure to take it seriously, DO NOT minimize it. Be sure to keep your lines of communication open with your child, and do not assume that just because your child has stopped talking about the bullying that it has ceased. Even though your child may ask you not to, if the bullying is happening at school, it needs to be reported to school officials. Nowadays, many schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and harassment, so check with your child's school and find out about its policy. Be sure to be empathetic with your child if they come to you, DO NOT tell them they are being oversensitive, otherwise you have just closed your line of communication with them.

Some tips to tell your child if they are being bullied:

- Do not hide from the bully, but if possible avoid the bully by taking a different hall to class
- Try ignoring the bully
- Speak out - tell your child to make statements like "I don't like that" or "stop that"
- Tell your child not to fight back - if possible - as this will not only increase the likelihood for increased violence, but will also provide the bully with the satisfaction of having "gotten to you."
- In the heat of the moment, while it might be difficult to withhold their feelings, tell your child not to show their feelings to the bully, as the bully could view this as motivation to continue the bullying. In contrast, if possible, deflecting the bullying with humor, or having a nonchalant attitude, has been shown in studies, to diminish the bullying.
- Tell an adult
- Tell your child to use the buddy system, and walk with a friend or friends
It is important to listen to your child. If you feel as though your child may be being bullied, ask questions. How do you feel when you are at school? Who do you play with on the play ground? How do kids treat each other as school? Provide your child with the opportunity to communicate with you, how they are feeling. Empathize with your child, and work with them on finding a solution to their situation.

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