Are Your Children Safe from Bullies?
Some authorities estimate that up to 30% of US students have been victims of bullying. Students who are victimized by bullying can be two to nine times more likely than other children to attempt suicide. Parents who are alert to the signs of bullying and who intervene quickly and aggressively may be doing more than protecting a child from hurt feelings – they may be saving his or her life.
Here are 10 potential signs that your child may be the subject of bullying at school:
1. Unexplained physical injuries like bruising or scratches, or even a reluctance to talk about injuries
2. Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
3. Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
4. Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
5. Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
6. Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
7. Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
8. Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
9. Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide
10. Receiving calls late at night or at unusual hours
10 Ways to Intervene to Stop Bullying
1. Pay attention to the warning signs. Don’t summarily dismiss even the simplest signs.
2. Never assume a situation is merely harmless teasing. Assure the child you are there to help.
3. When you see something, do something! Address any questionable behavior immediately and keep the bullying from escalating. If necessary call other adults to help.
4. Remain calm if your child is the victim of bullying. When intervening, never argue and always model respectful behavior. Firs, ensure everyone is safe and no one needs medical attention.
5. Deal with the bullied child individually. Don’t attempt to sort out the facts while everyone is present; don’t allow the students involved to talk with one another: and don’t ask bystanders to tell what they saw in front of the bullying victim or others.
6. Don’t make involved students apologize or shake hands. Explain that you take this type of behavior very seriously and that you plan to get to the bottom of it before you determine what should be done next and any resulting consequences based on your school’s anti-bullying policy. This empowers the bullied child – and the bystanders – to feel that someone will finally listen to their concerns and be fair about outcomes.
7. Hold bystanders accountable. Bystanders provide bullies an audience, and often actually encourage bullying. Explain that this type of behavior is wrong, will not be tolerated, and as bystanders, they also have a right and a responsibility to stop bullying. Identify yourself as a caring adult that can be approached if they are being bullied and/or see or suspect bullying.
8. Listen and don’t pre-judge. It is possible that the person you suspect to be the bully may actually be a bullied student retaliating or a “bully’s” cry for help. It may also be the result of an undiagnosed medical, emotional or psychological issue. Rather than make any assumptions, listen to each child with an open mind.
9. Get appropriate professional help. Be careful not to give any advice beyond your level of expertise. Rather than make any assumptions, if you deem there are any underlying and/or unsolved issues, refer the student to a nurse, counselor, school psychologist, social worker, or other appropriate professional.
10. Become trained to handle bullying situations. If you work with students in any capacity, it is important to learn the proper ways to address bullying. Visit www.nea.org/bullyfree.
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