Everyone, even young children, can experience bullying. Learn what you can do to help.
More than half of teenagers believe that bullying is the main problem they see among their peers, according to a survey from Pew Research Center. However, bullying may begin even sooner than the teenage years. More than 30% of elementary school students reported being bullied in school, and 20% of kindergarteners reported frequent bullying.
Bullying occurs at young ages because children are still learning to develop social skills, regulate emotions and solve problems. Some have not learned the diﬀerence between bullying and teasing. Teasing can be good-natured among friends and siblings, if both children understand they are joking. Bullying, however, is one-sided and hurtful. It can involve name-calling, hitting, shunning and spreading rumors.
Signs that a child is being bullied include:
- A drop in grades or interest in school
- Avoiding activities they used to enjoy
- Avoiding certain situations, such as asking to skip school or be driven instead of riding the bus
- Feeling or pretending to be sick especially before school or social situations
- Losing sleep or having frequent nightmares
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite
Stand Up Against Bullying
Take bullying seriously and do not tell children to “tough it out.” Fewer than half of children tell adults when they are being bullied, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So if your child opens up to you about being bullied, listen to them calmly and praise them for talking about it. Some children who are bullied feel like it is their fault. If your child says anything to indicate they believes this, assure them the bully is behaving badly, not them.
Tell a counselor, teacher or principal that your child is being bullied or alert the bully’s parents. If it occurs when you are not present, encourage your child to talk about it with a trusted adult. Also, advise them to walk away from or ignore the bully and stay with friends when the bully is nearby. Finally, help build your child’s self-esteem when they are at home so they can feel conﬁdent.
As a parent, there is always something new to teach your child, and each teaching opportunity is a chance to build your child’s self-esteem. Helping your child learn to do things on their own gives them a chance to feel proud and accomplished.
When teaching your child new things, tell them it is OK to make mistakes. Do not let your child criticize themselves harshly. Instead, oﬀer a way to re-frame what they are saying. Praise their eﬀorts and progress, as well as their attitude, while they are working: “You did a great job practicing, and I could tell you kept going, even when you were frustrated. Good for you!”
Children with high self-esteem may still feel hurt by bullying. However, they will be more likely to feel conﬁdent in themselves, and they will also feel loved and supported by you.
Paul B. Hall Medical Group offers behavioral health services close to home. Greg Horn, APRN is accepting new patients of all ages. He offers in-office as well as Telehealth visits from the comfort of your own home. To schedule an appointment, call 606-789-3188.
Sources: togetheragainstbullying.org, pewsocialtrends.org, stopbullying.gov, stopbullying.gov, kidshealth.org, kidshealth.org, stopbullying.gov