Help Your Kids with School Bullying
Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. An estimated 60% of children are bullied at least once during their school year, and over 20% of children are bullied repeatedly over a much longer period of time. Children who are bullied are at most risk of problems with behavior, mood, school performance and family or social relationships, over a long period of time. During my sessions with children and their parents, I often deal with emotional and behavioral traumas caused by school conflicts such as bullying and other social challenges.
The 4 Types of Bullying
1. Physical bullying is when children engage in behaviors that are physical and meant to harm the victim, including hitting, pushing and kicking. It can also include throwing food, objects or stealing belongings.
2. Verbal bullying is when one or more children uses words to insult the victim.
3. Relational bullying is when one or more children purposely leaves the victim out of activities, chooses not to invite the victim to parties or spreads rumors about the victim. This type of bullying has a higher ratio among girls.
4. Cyber bullying is when one or more children use social networking sites, text messages, websites or other electronic media to say insulting things, lie, post pictures or spread rumors about the victim. This happens very often among adolescents. In cyber bullying, the bully may pretend to be someone else or even anonymous, which will make the bullying even more significant. Your child does not know where the bully comes from so it seems to them that the whole world becomes their enemy.
Victims of bullying display a range of responses, even many years later, such as:
1. Low self-esteem
2. Difficulty in trusting others
3. Lack of assertiveness
5. Difficulty controlling anger
Signs of Bullying
Please pay close attention to your kids if you notice the following signs:
1. Stomach aches, nausea, headaches or pain – Being bullied can cause a lot of stress for children. This stress can put strain on children’s bodies, leading to stomach aches, nausea, intestinal problems, headaches and other pain.
2. Changes in mood and behavior –If you notice sudden changes in your child’s mood or behaviors (like constant crying, insomnia or loss of appetite), these may be signs that something significant is happening and may be related to bullying.
3. Avoiding school – Children who are bullied at school will stop feeling motivated to participate in schooling or any related activities, due to feelings of sadness, loneliness and fear.
4. Lost belongings – If your child begins frequently losing items, like books, electronics or jewelry, this could be a sign of being bullied.
5. Academic struggle – Children who struggle with grades and learning are at increased risk for being bullied, but dropping grades can also be a sign that a child is being bullied at school. Children who are bullied may be embarrassed to answer questions in class, cannot pay attention or feel depressed most of the time.
6. Not being invited to friends’ houses/birthday parties – Children who are bullied may stop being invited to friends’ houses or birthday parties either because friends are the ones who are bullying or because friends no longer want to spend time with a child who is the target of bullying. Your child feels lonely and isolated.
What can you do if you suspect your child is being bullied?
• Ask the right questions
Ask open-ended questions about how your child feels things are going with peers at school or in your neighborhood.
• Be a good listener
Just being a good listener is much more important than trying to fix the problems for your kids. Collect detailed information and write it down.
• Set the example
Show your child how to interact with others and how to feel about themselves by modeling confidence, assertiveness and pro-social behaviors. Children look to parents to learn rules for dealing with adversity, communicating with difficult people, problem-solving and managing interpersonal conflict.
• Talk to the teachers
After gathering enough information from your child, you may plan to visit your child’s school and meet with teachers, a school counselor, and other important school personnel to discuss your concern and develop a feasible plan. This is a proactive step to start helping your child.
• Provide social tips
Family is always the best classroom for children and you can help your child to improve their problem-solving skills. Effective communication skills can help children manage bullying in school.
• Know when to seek professional help
Finding out that your child has been bullied is only the first step in keeping your child safe. If you notice further changes in your child’s mood, behavior, school performance, friendships, motivation level or family relationships, seek help from a psychologist or other mental health professional as early as possible. I would suggest early intervention from bullying is the best solution to your child’s quick recovery. During sessions, I provide hands-on tools and practical methods for self-protection, conflict resolution and “friendship making” strategies to children and their parents. Do not wait until you get a serious call from principal’s office. Be proactive to protect your child from school bullying.
Claire Lin is a Child & Family Psychologist at Body & Soul Medical Clinics who devotes herself for the healthy growth of children and happy family relationship. If you wish to help your child with school bullying or other social and behavioral challenges, contact Body & Soul to book an appointment with Claire.