Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.
School starts this week in most area localities. United Methodist Family Services offers these tips for dealing with bullies:
Back to School: What Parents Need To Know About Bullying
Children across Virginia are strapping on their backpacks and sharpening their #2 pencils to head back to school. It is an exciting time of year to be sure. It can also be a terrifying time for a child who is being bullied.
According to reports, every day across the US nearly 160,000 kids stay home from school because of bullying. Nearly 83% of incidents receive no intervention and continues to happen.
“Bullying can make a child feel helpless and alone. He or she may be afraid of the backlash from the child who is bullying if he tells,” said Stephanie Schuchert, Associate Director of the Child & Family Healing Center at United Methodist Family Services. “It is important to be aware of changes in your child so that
bullying can be stopped immediately.”
The website stopbullying.gov
says that there is not one particular factor that puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay,bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied.
Parents who think their child is being bullied should look for changes in their child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating.
- Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Parents need to also be aware of signs that their child may be bullying other children. Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully other
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
The effects of being bullied and bullying others are serious. Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood. They are also more likely to have health complaints and decreased academic achievement. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults, get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. Kids who bully are also more likely to engage in sexual activity at an early age, have criminal convictions and be abusive towards their spouses and children as adults.
“With a new school year beginning, it is important for teachers, staff as well as parents to be alert to children at-risk of being bullied and those at-risk of being children who bully and stop it immediately,” noted Schuchert.
If you believe your child is being bullied or is bullying others, get help immediately. Residential treatment programs like the Child & Family Healing Center are an option if behaviors are extreme. Mental health providers on an outpatient basis can also help.