There is a crisis of bullying in schools and the solution is to learn what to do before it happens. According to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics in the United States, one in five students reports having been bullied.
THE StopBullying.govcreated by the US government, defines bullying behavior as an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the victim and repeated incidents (or potential for repetition).
Prevention is at the heart of resolving bullying, rather than waiting to respond when a more violent episode occurs or when too many incidents turn into a tragedy.
StopBullying.gov provides schools with resources to educate students about bullying, as well as techniques for keeping the lines of communication open between students and staff. But parents can play a key role in this effort.
“We know that victims of bullying can be negatively impacted in all domains of their lives,” said Amanda McGough, a clinical psychologist who works with teens and adults and is also part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as president in North Carolina.
“Him [o bullying] infringes on mental, emotional, physical, social, and academic functioning. This can show up as low self-esteem, depression, isolation, physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches, or avoiding going to school.”
Bullying can affect children’s lives more than ever. “Integrating social media into teens’ lives further exacerbates the impacts of bullying,” said Nikki Pagano, a licensed clinical social worker in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Before social media, there could be an unpleasant interaction at school and that’s where it ended up,” Pagano said. “Now, that interaction is carried home and is inevitable. Instead of one person making you feel bad, there could be something posted online and peers could be seeing or even ‘liking’ this post”.
Start by talking with your child about the importance of reporting bullying behavior to a school official. If your children witness another student being excluded, teased, humiliated, threatened, or physically hurt, they should report it to an adult.
Most children will not feel comfortable stepping in to help a victim in the moment for fear of retaliation from a bully. But bystanders can still have a powerful, positive effect by not only reporting the behavior, but also talking to the victim privately afterwards.
Instruct your child to say something supportive, such as, “I saw what happened and it wasn’t right” or “It’s not true what that person told you.” Affirming the value of another student, even in private, can help keep the child from feeling like a complete outsider.
If your children feel bullied, they should also report this behavior to the school, even if they feel free to do so anonymously. Many of the school-age children I work with in my summer leadership programs report that planning ahead what they will do or say if someone is mean to them helps them avoid more targets and makes them feel empowered.
If you suspect your children are being bullied, give them the help they need to control their emotions. Research shows that coping skills taught in cognitive behavioral therapy can help young people manage their feelings and cope in positive ways that will benefit them, as well as their family and peers, throughout their lives.
“If your child is being bullied, approach him first by asking questions about his perspective on the situation,” advised McGough. “Make it clear to them what your expectations are about how they treat other people, and make sure that you yourself are a role model for this. Help them understand that their words and actions affect the other person, and set clear consequences if the bullying behavior continues.”
You may need to do more. “If this pattern is persistent,” said McGough, “it may be necessary to consult a mental health professional, as mental health conditions can sometimes contribute to bullying.”
Not sure if your child is bullying? Parents can watch for the signs, according to the government website StopBullying.gov. It’s time to start a conversation about bullying with your children if you notice that they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights;
- Have friends who bully others;
- They are increasingly aggressive;
- They are often sent to the school board;
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings;
- Blame others for your problems;
- Do not accept responsibility for your actions;
- They are competitive and care about their reputation or popularity.
“Often, there is something else going on with these kids — maybe they’ve been bullied or don’t feel accepted by their peers, maybe there are challenges for them at home or at school,” Pagano said. “This could be an opportunity to get help for a child and prevent future bullying.”
*Michelle Icard is an author, educator and speaker on parenting. Learn more about her work at MichelleIcard.com.
Source: CNN Brasil
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