With Halloween just around the corner orange is everywhere. However, wearing orange in October is not just about Halloween and pumpkins anymore. October is National Bullying Prevention month and we just had Unity Day – the day when wearing orange means that you are committed to ending bullying. Launched in 2011 by Pacer.org, Unity Day’s call to action is "Make it Orange and Make it End. Unite Against Bullying!"
Many ask, “Why is so much attention being paid to bullying? Isn’t bullying just part of growing up?” The answer is a resounding NO. Bullying can be verbal, social, and physical and it is not OK and is not a “normal part of life.” Bullying should never be tolerated.
It is important for parents to understand both how prevalent an issue bullying is and how damaging it can be. Unless you or your child has directly experienced bullying, you may not be aware of just how devastating it can be.
A study conducted by the United States Department of Justice found that:
Over 1/3 of all teens report being bullied at school
21% of teens reported being made fun of by a bully
18% were the subject of rumors
11% of teens were physically abused by a bully
Only 1/3 of bully victims report the bullying to someone
85% of bullying occurs in the presence of peers
Repeated name–calling, cruel taunts, teasing, humiliation, rumor spreading, ignoring, making someone do something they do not want to do, excluding someone from groups or activities on purpose, hitting, kicking, pushing, shoving, or even threatening to cause bodily harm….these behaviors can occur over and over again by one student or group of students to a select victim…. It’s happening in schools every day to kids all across the country and it’s called BULLYING.
Whether you child is in elementary school, middle school, or high school bullying can make her/him feel hurt, angry, afraid, depressed, helpless, hopeless, isolated, ashamed, totally undermined, and even guilty that the bullying is somehow her/his fault. The most damaging aspect of bullying is its repetition. The constant fear of where and when the bully will strike next, what they will do, and how far they will go is serious. It not only affects a child’s self esteem, emotional wellbeing, and ability to learn, there is also a strong link to bullying and suicide among adolescents and teens.
Since bullies tend to be adept at hiding their behavior from adults and bullying most often occurs away from adult supervision (in hallways, bathrooms, or on the way home from school), victims of bullying can feel a sense of shame at being victimized and so they do not talk to their parents, teachers, or school administrators.
Studies done by Yale University show that bully victims are (on average) about 5 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. A child who is bullied is more likely to be a greater risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, all of which can lead to feeling of despair and not wanting to live anymore.
Bully-related suicide have been connected to physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyber bullying, sexting, or circulating suggestive photos or messages about a person.
Listed below are some helpful signs that may indicate your child/teen is a victim of bullying:
Having cuts and bruises that are not explained.
Isolating from friends and family members.
Not wanting to go to school or take part in school activities anymore.
Lacking interest in homework and having grades that are sliding.
Complaining of headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments.
Having a lack of appetite.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, but aren’t sure, here are some tips from The Evolve Team:
Establish Rapport –
Reach out to the child’s school and connect with those in charge. Let them know your concerns and let them know that you are willing to be a part of the process. The collaborative approach is best. Avoid aggressive language and accusations. At first, avoid calling the parents of the bully directly, though it may be necessary later on.
Ideally, you should establish a regular line of communication with your child’s teacher(s) from the start of the school year. As a parent, developing a relationship with the education team is key to being heard when you have legitimate concerns. In doing so, you will avoid putting your education team and/or the administration on the defensive when problems arise.
Be Transparent –
If you choose to contact your child’s education team directly, we recommend that you and your child be on the same page. Often part of the bullying process is instilling a fear of social repercussions in the victim, pushing them to avoid taking action. Not being on the same page with your child, or going behind their back, could be counterproductive and deepen the divide between you and your child, hindering the process.
Let the school know that you will be transparent and expect the same of them. In this fashion you feel assured things are being handled, and they can be assure that they wont have to look out for your next move.
Be Supportive –
As a parent, you want your child to be in a school environment where they feel safe. Once your child’s “safety” has been compromised, it can be challenging for a parent to process. Put yourself aside and note that the process is far more challenging for your child. Yes, you will help your kid whether they want it or not, but let it feel like they want it more than you, or you will undermine your ability to keep them safe.
Seek Support –
This is a very complex and often subjective situation with many parties, opinions, and legalities involved. As mentioned above, this is your child. Your baby. There are emotions at play, and lives at stake. It is imperative that you seek out a balanced and impartial individual to support you through the process. This could be a friend, relative, consultant/advocate, therapist, educator etc.
In this fashion you can seek to engage the issue in a way that is both protective, as well as collaborative, balanced, and solution focused.
Copyright Mendi Baron