Bullying: What Can You Do as a Parent?

Bullying is a subject that all parents are concerned about, and it is imperative for parents to be able to identify and know solutions on how to deal with bullying. This post will give parents information on: What is a bully? How do I identify if my child is a victim of a bully? What are the long-term effects of bullying? What can I, as a parent, do for my child?

What is Bullying?

Bullying can be defined as unwanted aggressive behavior, which can be real or perceived, and an imbalance of power. This behavior is often repetitive and has the potential to become habitual over an extended period of time. The actions of a bully are purposeful with the intent to hurt or make the victim uncomfortable. There are many different types of bullying and will often not be limited to one type:

  • Verbal bullying (derogatory comments or name calling)
  • Social exclusion or isolation
  • Physical bullying (hitting, kicking, etc.)
  • Lies or rumor spreading
  • Taking or damaging property
  • Threatening for forcing action
  • Racial bullying
  • Sexual bullying
  • Cyberbullying

The most common form of bullying both for boys and girls is verbal bullying such as name-calling. Although bullying is more common in schools, it can occur anywhere. It often occurs in unstructured areas such as playgrounds, cafeterias, hallways, and buses. In recent years, cyberbullying has received increased attention, as electronic devices have become more common. Bullying through electronic means, although prevalent, ranks third after verbal bullying and physical bullying. Bullying occurs at a greater frequency during middle school years and then will start to dissipate later in adolescence. Although, this statistic could mean there is a transition from overt (physical bullying) to covert (rumor spreading) type of bullying. Approximately 160,000 children miss school each day for fear of being bullied, and 2.7 million students are bullied each year. One in seven students is a bully or a victim, and 56% of students report witnessing bullying. Nine out of ten LGBT teens report being victims of bullying.

How do I identify if my child is a victim?

There are many causes of bullying, and there are certain risk factors that will attract a bully to their victim. Bullies will choose someone who is ‘different’ from their peers, weaker (physically or socially), unassertive or have underlying feelings of personal inadequacy. Those who have an emotional reaction (e.g., cry, run away, and get upset) and have nobody or few to stand up for them, are the repeated targets of bullies. Bullies, themselves, will usually have increasingly aggressive behavior, blame others for their issues, don’t accept responsibility for their actions, and may have other friends who are bullies. Bullies have a desire for dominance and power and often are searching for a gain in social status. Certain signs may indicate that a child has been a victim of bullying, including:

  • Injuries or illness without a physical explanation
  • Lost or damaged belongings, such as books or clothes
  • Frequent somatic symptoms, changes in habits, and/or difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Avoidance of school or social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Hurting himself/herself or expressing suicidal intent
  • Loss of interest in visiting or talking with friends
  • Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious, or depressed when they come home

What are the long-term effects of bullying?

There are many negative effects of long-term bullying which is why it is important to identify the victims as soon as possible. The most common negative effects of bullying are depression, anxiety, and panic disorders that can extend into adulthood. Serious long-term effects of bullying:

  • Somatic problems (frequent viral illnesses, longer illnesses)
  • Psychosomatic problems (headaches, stomach aches, sleeping problems)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression disorders
  • Self-harm or suicidal ideation extending into adolescence
  • Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms

Other effects into adulthood:

  • Lower educational qualifications
  • Worse at financial management
  • Earn less than their peers even at age 50
  • Trouble keeping a job and honoring financial obligations

As a parent, what can I do to help my child?

Say "No" to Bullying!
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There are many ways in which you can help your child through this difficult time. The first step is recognition of the problem and ensuring that the child is not at immediate risk of harming themselves. Provide assurance to the child that bullying is not his or her fault. Parents should report the bullying to the school as soon as it is identified. Your child’s teacher, guidance counselor, and/or principal are able to work with you to determine:

  • Who will look into your complaint, and when
  • When will that person get back to you
  • What information can you expect
  • How will the school, now that it is aware of the problem, keep your child safe while the problem is being investigated (for example, supervision of the alleged bully)
  • How will your child’s identity and privacy be protected to prevent retaliation
  • What services are available in the school or school district should your child need emotional or psychological support

You may request:

  • An immediate investigation of the situation
  • A commitment that retribution for making the complaint will not occur, or will be dealt with immediately should it occur
  • A plan of action to prevent further bullying of your child and others
  • Appropriate counseling for your child to deal with the effects of the bullying
  • Information about outside agencies (e.g., police, mental health) if a referral is appropriate
  • A transfer, if the fear of bullying is preventing your child from attending school

If at any time you believe your child is in danger, make a report directly to your local police. It helps to have a written record of the incidents and your actions to solve the problem. Encourage your child to report bullying and practice skills that will help them develop the confidence to speak up. Many elementary school students are reluctant and fearful to step in when they see someone else being bullied. Bullying affects everyone. It is up to everyone to create safety at school. Silence only makes the problem worse. Whether your child is a victim, bully, or bystander, programs may be available in your school district to help. These may include:

  • Bully prevention
  • Anger management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Restorative justice
  • Mentoring
  • School counseling
  • Peer counseling
  • Peer mediation
  • Social responsibility programs

At Mainstreet Pediatrics, we care about the health and safety of your child as much as you do. We are always available for consultation or to provide community resources. We are here to support you and your child. 

Bullying: What Can You Do as a Parent?

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