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Are You Worried Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Barbara Skodje Mack,EdD,LMFT,LPCC

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, one out of every five students has been bullied. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a child who is bullied, sometimes it can be difficult to tell. It’s important to keep an eye out for signs and keep an open line of communication with your kid.

Signs your child might be the victim of bullying according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF):

  • Change in personality or behavior
  • Struggles with anxiety or depression
  • Has little to no interest in attending school or joining activities
  • Has lost or damaged personal belongings
  • Fear of riding the bus or being alone
  • Has few friends/loses close friends suddenly
  • Comes home with bruises or marks
  • Poor grades
  • Has a poor appetite
  • Frequent trouble sleeping/nightmares
  • Acts aggressively
  • Frequently stays home/absent from school
  • Stays near adults

Bullying is an imbalance of power. Empower your child and help them build self-confidence.

  • Coach your child on how to practice solving social problems on their own.
  • Encourage your child to spend time with friends who have a positive influence.
  • Engage your child in activities that build on their interests, strengths, and friendships.
  • While you can be a safe place for your child to talk about the tough stuff, also invite your child to share the good parts of their day with you.

Help your child practice these tips to disarming a bully from Social Psychologist Brooks Gibbs.

Don’t Get Upset.No matter what the bully says, don’t get upset.

Practice keeping your cool in tough situations. It is natural to get upset by the bully, but that’s what the bully thrives on to make them feel more powerful.

Try these things to help you stay calm when facing criticism or hurtful remarks:

  1. Take a deep breath, wiggle your toes in your shoes, try distracting yourself by counting backwards from 100 or spelling the word ‘pineapple’ backwards, act uninterested, text someone or play a game on your phone, walk away.
  2. Treat the bully like a friend.You don’t have to make friends with the bully, but you can choose to respond with kindness.

    This is tough but think about it…When someone is nice to you, do you feel like being mean back? No, you feel like being nice back. And when someone is mean to you, do you feel like being nice back? No, you feel like being mean back. In fact, psychology demonstrates that kindness has a reciprocal affect to the people around us that breaks the cycle of hate and aggression.

    If you don’t know what to say, try this line to let them know you’re going to take control of your own feelings and actions: "Hey, you can talk about me all you want. It’s not going to ruin my day."

Bullying can describe a wide range of situations. Know the difference between bullying and violence and seek out help when someone’s health and safety are at risk.