October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. That means now is a good time for us to talk about this important subject.
Bullying can occur at school or on the bus, in the neighborhood, on the playground— anywhere. Cyber bullying is also on the rise, where people use the internet or phone apps to harm others.
At the very least, bullying lowers self-esteem. But as we know, continual bullying can cause children and teens to withdraw socially, may create depression or other mental health issues, and can even result in physical harm.
Parental awareness is essential. It’s almost certain that your child will, at some point, either be on the receiving end of bullying behavior, or will bully someone else, or both. An article on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website references a study from 1999, in which four out of five teens admitted to participating in bullying behavior at least once a month. Those who have been bullied often go on to mistreat others.
Conversations about appropriate behavior and language need to begin early between parent and child. Don’t hesitate to correct your child or teen when you hear name-calling or witness unkind behavior, even between siblings. They can learn early the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Teach them how to express themselves, especially when hurt or angry, by using language that doesn’t cross the line into disrespect. Don’t tolerate violent acts against people or animals.
Of course, your kids are not always near you, and you won’t be aware of everything that happens to them or everything they do. Continue the conversation about bullying; remind them to walk away from confrontations and to inform a responsible adult if they experience or witness bullying. Talk about kindness; role-play sticky situations. Monitor their internet and cell phone activity and discuss what you find there.
Remember that school counselors and other therapists can be really helpful if your child or teen is a victim or perpetrator of bullying, and our office can always make a referral.
As children get older, remind them that they help create a safe environment for others. They can be a positive force by refusing to contribute to an atmosphere of hatred.
As the school year continues, things can get very hectic. Don’t forget to pay attention to what’s going on with your youngsters. Ask questions, be supportive, get help when needed. Let’s keep our schools and community safe for everyone’s children.
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