Pencils, notebooks and lunchboxes are all a sign of school days. Unfortunately, today, sending children off with a warm coat and healthy lunch isn't all parents need to be doing.
In the past decade, incidences of bullying from elementary to high school have increased dramatically to the point where an episode of bullying occurs approximately once every 7 minutes. As parents, you need to know the facts about bullying and how to help your children survive it.
Bullying is aggressive behavior from one or more children against another and includes an imbalance of power (one child is larger, stronger or more popular) and repetition. This isn't one snide remark in the lunchroom, it's is or has the potential for being consistent attacks either physically or mentally. And, it can cause lasting problems both for those who are bullied and those who bully others.
There are three types of bullying, according to Judy Sheehan, RN, BSN, MSN, director of Nursing Education at Butler Hospital. They include:
- Verbal bullying – teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual remarks, taunting, threatening to cause harm
- Psychological bullying – leaving someone our on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public
- Physical bullying – hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone's belongings, making mean or rude hand gestures
"Psychological bullying also includes cyber bullying, which means it can literally go on all day and all night. It's not a case of where a child can leave the bullying behind at school anymore," Sheehan says.
The best way to help your children deal with bullying is to prepare them. Help them understand what bullying is and talk about ways to safely stand up to bullies and get help.
Together with your child, you can:
- Develop a plan where the child speaks to a trusted adult if they experience bullying or see someone else being bullied.
- Role-play ways to stand up to a bully. This can include looking at the bully and in a calm voice, telling them to stop. Laughing can also help diffuse the situation, as can walking away if speaking up is not safe or too hard for your child.
- Devise strategies for avoiding bullies, including staying near adults. Most bullying happens when adults are not around.
"Parents should also talk regularly to their children so they will feel comfortable coming to them with problems," Sheehan adds. "Ask them about their school day, about the ride on the bus, about lunch time. Those are all prime times for bullying."
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