Is my child experiencing bullying?
Is my child being bullied at school?
1 in 4 children report being bullied at school each year. Bullying can range from name calling, teasing, being threatened, or physically harmed. The emotional damage bullying causes to a child is significant and has far-reaching effects on a child's confidence, social development, and even their ability to learn. In increasing cases, bullying has been the cause of suicide in children as young as 7 years old.
We all play a role to help combat bullying. Below are ways you can help if you suspect your child is a victim of bullying:
Create a safe environment
A study in 2011 found that only 25% of children reported bullying to an adult. Create a safe environment for your children to discuss things with you. Listen to them, and be thoughtful rather than reactionary in your response. Reinforce that home is a safe place to discuss any challenges they may be having at school or elsewhere.
Talk with your children
Discussions about bullying are important, whether your child is being bullied, is the bully, or is just a bystander. You can open the dialogue by asking if they know of any bullying at their school. Ask if they have ever felt bullied or engaged in any bullying. Ask how they felt and what they did if they witnessed bullying. Discuss appropriate responses if they witness bullying, why it is wrong and what to do if they are being bullied. Point out how our behaviors can affect others and how each person is different (things like dress, stature, weight, sexual orientation, intellectual ability and popularity are common reasons children bully others).Discuss personal values that are important.
Talk to your child's teacher
Talk to your child's teacher specifically about bullying. If your child is being bullied or is the bully, schedule a conversation with school officials to discuss what options exist to stop the behavior.
-Ask what measures they have in place to protect children from other students.
-Encourage them to have a school-wide assembly addressing bullying and having a dialogue about its effects.
-Encourage them to implement measures to encourage compassion and kindness among students (https://www.pbs.org/education/blog/9-tips-for-teaching-kindness-in-the-classroom).
-Talk to the school about bullying even if your child is not actively involved. Suggesting systems and policies for the overall improvement of your child's school environment will ultimately create a better place for your child to learn and thrive.
Keep the dialogue going
Periodically check in with your child about bullying at school. If they exhibit worrisome behavior, reinforce why it is wrong to bully others and implement measures to encourage kindness.
Nicole Haughton, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist
Dr. Nicole Haughton is a native of the island of Jamaica. She completed high school in the north east before attending Oakwood College. She obtained degrees in Biological Sciences and Spanish. Huntsville has always had a special place in her heart, and after completing her medical training she relocated to the area. Prior to serving as a hospitalist, she worked as an outpatient pediatrician. When she is not working as a hospitalist she spends her time serving as the volunteer pre-health advisor for Oakwood University students. She enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with family and friends.