By Cathy Williams, MSW, LCSW, CEAP
As parents in today's ever-changing world, we have many concerns for our children. One of these is bullying. Fortunately, by being aware of the warning signs, we can intervene to help our children. This is important because most children will not report bullying. This is due to fears of retaliation and not wanting to be seen as a "tattletale." As a parent you have a key role in preventing and reporting bullying. You can teach your child nonviolent ways of dealing with bullies.
Bullying takes place in many forms: physical, social, verbal and cyberbullying. Physical bullying includes hitting, slapping, stealing or destroying property. This type of bullying is the easiest to identify. Look for unexplained injuries, missing money and damaged possessions. Social bullying is done by hurting someone's reputation, which is frequently done by spreading rumors or purposely not including someone. Verbal bullying is done to degrade someone by teasing and name calling. Girls frequently engage in verbal bullying. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Cyberbullying is done with electronic technology to harass and humiliate another child. Examples of cyberbullying include: posting embarrassing pictures or videos and sending mean text messages or emails. Cyberbullying is especially damaging since it can take place at any time and you can't always tell who has done it.
Here are a few signs of bullying:
- Declining grades
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Decreased self-esteem
- Skipping or refusing to attend school
- Stomachache and headache
- Trouble eating and sleeping
- Not going to the bathroom at school
- Upset after using electronics
- Self-injury and threats of suicide
There are many ways you can help your child if you suspect they are being bullied. Encourage your child to talk to you about problems they are having with other children. It is important to listen carefully and not blame your child. Ask them to tell you if someone is harassing or threatening them. If your child is school age, start by talking to their teacher. If you do not make progress with the teacher, contact the principal. Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students. Teach your child to walk away if they are being bullied and seek help from a teacher. If cyberbullying is taking place, do not respond to emails or texts. It is also suggested to save all of the evidence. You can report bullying to social media sites. If there are threats of harassment or violence you should contact the police. It is also helpful to block the bully.
Children who are bullied report higher rates of depression and anxiety. If your child is having trouble coping from bullying, professional help is suggested. Counseling can increase your child's confidence and self-esteem. BJC EAP is available to help with bullying if it occurs. We can be reached at 314.747.7490 or toll-free at 888.505.6444.