Your child comes home from school moody, angry, depressed, and withdrawn or perhaps he or she begins to have difficulty getting up in the morning, has multiple physical complaints, and begins to avoid school altogether. Something feels wrong to you, but your child denies it or perhaps tells you someone is “being mean” but implores you not to get involved.
What is a parent to do? How seriously should your child’s behavioral change be taken? Is your child being bullied? Isn’t this normal? If you ignore it, will it just go away?
An episode of bullying occurs approximately once every 7 minutes and lasts an average 15 seconds. Bullying by definition is behavior that is repetitive over time, based on an imbalance of power and intended to harm and control another. This behavior can be seen as early as preschool, but is more frequent in second, fifth, seventh and eighth grades.
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Three categories of bullying have been identified. Judy Sheehan, RN, BSN, MSN, Director of Nursing Education at Butler Hospital, explains, “Physical bullying is the easiest to identify and includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, pushing or taking personal belongings. Verbal is the most common type of bullying and very difficult to identify or prove. It includes malicious teasing, name calling and /or making threats. The last category of bullying is emotional or psychological bullying and includes cyber bullying, sexual harassment, extortion and intimidation.” In addition, relational violence, a particularly damaging type of emotional bullying involves the manipulation of social relationships and the spreading of rumors. This relational violence is often seen in female to female relationships and disrupts or damages social skill development.
Unfortunately, perpetrators, victims and witnesses of bullying all suffer from the experience, and, in fact, the impact of this type of violence has a societal as well as emotional cost. There are many resources available throughout the community to address the issues of bullies, victims and witnesses. Sheehan adds, “Beware of resources that downplay or minimize the effects of bullying on children. It is a very serious issue and should not be dealt with lightly. Bullying can be extremely harmful to children who are bullied."