Bullying – What you can do to prevent it
By Barbara Rudnick • Family Life Education Program Manager
October is a busy month for raising awareness. It is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Domestic Abuse Awareness month, National Bullying Prevention Month and Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day, which raises awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) folks and issues.
This article is about bullying and, I believe, that most of you will find the information shocking and upsetting. Bullying is a form of abuse. Bullying is also like a cancer that infects and takes away the spirit, dignity, self-esteem, mental wellness and sometimes, sadly, the lives of our kids. Bullying is widespread and out of control.
Emily Brazelon, author of the book Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy writes, “Every 7 minutes a child is bullied on a school playground. An epidemic of cyberbullying has inspired a whole new kind of cruelty among children. Every day, as many as 160,000 children stay home because they feel unsafe at school.”
In one large study, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that about 49 percent of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school, whereas 30.8 percent reported bullying others during that time.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth and those perceived as LGBT are at an increased risk of being bullied. This can be a contributing factor to the higher number of suicides among this group.
Only about 20-30 percent of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying, so these numbers are probably very conservative. The damaging effects of bullying can last a lifetime. This is a serious problem of epidemic proportions.
Here are some things we can all do to help:
- Create and support schools and communities that teach and practice tolerance, inclusion, acceptance and kindness
- Have open and respectful conversations so that we can better understand each other
- Make it safe and acceptable for children to report bullying
- Be consistent by enforcing reasonable and age-appropriate consequences for bullying and the mistreatment of others
- Be responsible role models and work together to insure the health and safety of our children
There is hope. Change is possible. In schools where there are anti-bullying programs, bullying is reduced by 50 percent. That’s a fantastic start!
If you know a child who has been bullied, here are my suggestions for helping children heal:
Helping Children Heal from the Effects of Teasing and Bullying
Barbara Rudnick, MA; email@example.com; 952-542-4825
- Hear – Listen to them. Let them know that you believe what they are telling you.
- Help – Offer support and comfort. Correct negative and untrue abusive, hurtful messages. Problem solve and strategize with the child to help insure their safety. Consider counseling as an option.
- Hope – Let the child know that you are going to work on this with them and that you will find a way together to make it stop. (It may mean changing classes, schools, camps, etc.) Re-enforce that they are not alone.
- Empathize – Validate their thoughts and feelings.
- Empower – It’s wonderful if your child told you about their experiences. So many children suffer in silence because they have been threatened by the bully not to tell or believe that their peers will reject them for being a tattletale. Teach basic prevention skills – www.stopbullying.gov provides excellent resources. Assure kids that they will be ok. They are not alone and you will help them deal with this.
- Engage – This is a community problem and so many different places (schools, camps, community centers, places of worship, etc.) need to be involved in addressing and responding to this serious problem.
- Abuse – Remember that repetitive teasing and bullying is abusive behavior. Don’t discount it by explaining it away as typical kid behavior.
- Answer – Respond honestly, in an age-appropriate way, to questions and concerns that a child may have. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/07/how-to-talk-to-your-child_0_n_3984511.html)
- Action – Take action to stop this behavior. Talk to other parents, teachers, camp staff, professionals. Make sure there are safeguards in place that are really being enforced.
- Love – Love your children unconditionally. Bullies tend to focus on a person’s weaknesses or vulnerable areas. Help your child see their own strengths and abilities. Talk about what makes them special. Let them know they are likable and loveable.
- Learn – Learn what the short- and long-term effects of bullying are.
- Lead – Guide your child towards positive and realistic solutions. Even young children can make suggestions about solutions. Become a problem-solving role model.
By working together, we can make a difference!
If you have questions or want more information, please contact me at 952-542-4825 or firstname.lastname@example.org. JFCS is always here to help and support all families.