Is your child coming home with missing articles and looking depressed. Bullying is real, and kills.
Bullying is thought of as being an ordinary passage of growing up. We all remember being pelted with some sort of hurtful words. Some kids remember being beat up on the play ground. Although this wounded many children of generations past it wasn’t always taken seriously. When we hear the word bully we go back to that behavior. However, bullying has changed. It is more than words or getting teased up on the playground. It is inescapable harassment, physical assault, verbal abuse, and a constant barrage of cyber attacks that leave kids feeling defeated, fearful, and alone.
According to Maureen Hackett, who is a mental health child advocate, children and teens are at fragile stages in terms of their sense of identity and self esteem. Their relationship with peers is an integral part of how they see themselves, as well as their sense of worth, and this is one of the aspects that make bullying so dangerous. Hackett goes on to say that the young victims look to their parents and other adults in their life for validation, appreciation and protection. When parents, teachers, or other adults in the child’s life don’t take it seriously or help the child, they are hurt further and many times this intensifies the actual bullying the child is experiencing. There is no escape for the child. When previously children were able to escape to their homes, now there is an onslaught of cyber bullying so that the actual terrorizing is continuing in the child’s own room.
What can we do to help with this crisis that happens every day, everywhere, to many children? The first step may be getting involved with law. Encourage the state to recognize bullying as a form of abuse. The word “bullying” minimizes what our children are going through on an emotional level (and many times physical). They are being terrorized.
Warning signs your child is being bullied:
• Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings.
• Unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches.
• They complain about not having friends.
• They seem afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs)
• No interest in school or their grades begin to struggle with school.
• Weepy, sad, moody, or depressed when they come home from school.
• Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments
• Experiences a loss of appetite or they may begin gaining weight.
• Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem.
The best advice I can give parents regarding helping your child is the most important one. Take it seriously. Do not minimize it and write everything down.
More tips for parents if your child is being bullied:
1. You need a plan and you need to make an appointment with your child’s teacher. Share your plan with the teacher. Come up with a plan for school and home hours.
2. Talk to your child with a counselor. This will help reinforce your child’s sense of worth and many counselors have ideas of how to best intervene with other resources. Your child’s counselor visiting the school may also help support the teacher’s efforts.
3. Limit your child’s computer time and have them share threats they are getting with you. Make sure you have a copy of this, in case you need legal help.
4. If there is not an improvement within a week, it is time to take it to the principal (if the abuse is happening at school) or wherever where the attacks are happening.
Tips if you are the parent of a bully:
1. Your child needs counseling and a professional assessment with a psychiatrist (your whole family may be encouraged to attend). Bully behavior is learned and that suggests that there may be a “bully mentor” in your home.
2. Make a doctor’s appointment for your child. Sometimes children act out with impulsive and angry behaviors when there is something wrong with them physically.
3. Limit your child’s ability to text, use of the internet, and set firmer limits at home.
4. Violence with your child does not stop the behavior and may make their bully maneuvers more intense. Overprotecting your child and telling yourself that it is normal child behavior doesn’t work either. There is nothing normal about hurting another child who you believe is weaker than you. You need to act and you need to do it now.
*Behind every bully who is terrorizing another child, there is a parent who has ignored the bully’s behaviors or continued to mentor bully behavior to the child. Bullying does not go away. Most of us know one or two grown up bullies (you may even be related to them). Left alone bully behavior gets worse, therefore intervention on both parent’s behalf (the parents of the bully and the parents of the child being bullied) works best. –Mary Jo Rapini-
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