October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Here is a definition of bullying that can be easily understood by kids: bullying is when someone says or does something on purpose that causes another person to be hurt by words, actions, or both. It usually happens more than once, and the person being bullied feels bad because of it and has a hard time stopping what is happening to them. Bullying comes in many forms and looks many different ways, but all of them are unacceptable. Teaching bystanders how to intervene appropriately to stop bullying in real time is an effective strategy, but understanding how to prevent it can be even more important.
Bullying can affect children’s short term and long term mental and physical health. It can also have negative effects on their emotional development and school performance. In fact, there are negative consequences for every child involved in bullying, so it’s very important to support everyone – including children who bully, children who are bullied, and children who witness bullying.
Resilience is part of our Suwannee’s HEART agenda, and its importance in the mental, emotional, and physical health of our children can’t be emphasized enough. Resilience is the ability to bounce back after adversity or a difficult experience. When children are resilient, they are able to approach a potentially traumatic experience such as bullying, and have a more positive outcome. Parents and guardians can help young people become more resilient in the following ways.
- Have a comforting, guiding relationship with your children.
- Help your children work on problem solving skills at home so when they are in a high stress situation, they have already learned strategies and practiced using them.
- Help your children learn to self regulate their feelings and behavior, which in turn helps them have positive mental, social, emotional, and academic outcomes.
Data from the U.S. Department of Health shows that about 70% of students witness some form of bullying at school. All kids, whether they are the bully, the victim of bullying, or a witness are affected and report higher levels of anxiety and depression. There are school based prevention programs and interventions to address bullying at every school in our district. However, parents and guardians play an essential role in bullying prevention. Tips for parents to help children who engage in bullying and/or are victims of bullying include:
- Stop bullying before it starts. Talk to your kids about bullying and how to identify the different ways it can happen.
- Make your home a bully free zone. Children learn what is acceptable from the adults in their lives. It’s important to model good examples of navigating social situations and relationships.
- Be aware of potential warning signs of a child who is being bullied. This may include things like not wanting to go to school, general worrying or sadness, decreased or increased appetite, or nightmares. Some kids are hesitant to report bullying to parents or other adults for fear of retaliation or other negative consequences. Just because a child denies being involved in bullying as bully, victim, or witness doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
- Discuss different ways to cope with bullying since parents/guardians or other adults are not always present to intervene. Model ways to ignore bullying with your child and teach them how to be more assertive. It’s also important to help your child identify teachers, school counselors, administrators, School Resource Officers and other adults they can go to for help.
- Monitor social media and computer use. Become educated about cyberbullying and teach your child about it. Talk to your child about the importance of ignoring and not responding to threatening or harassing messages as well as not sending or sharing threatening messages with others. The majority of children have access to cellphones and other electronic devices, so it’s important to limit the use of technology for your children. It’s also critical to know what they are seeing and doing online and on social media.
If you’re not sure how to address this topic with your child, I’ve got you covered! Below are some great links with information about how to help your child with all aspects of bullying. Of course, I am also going to remind you that we are all in this together. If you are concerned about bullying, contact your child’s school counselor. She or he is the best place to start, and has the skills and resources to help your child and you with this difficult issue. You can also contact me at 386-647-4169 or firstname.lastname@example.org and I will assist you in any way that I can. Together we can create a community that is kinder, more inclusive and accepting for all of our students.
Mental Health Counselor
Suwannee County School District