How to Talk to Your Child About Bullying
Category: Behavioral Health Services, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Public Health
By: Brianna DAlessio South, Marketing Specialist
Last week, a 13-year-old boy took his own life after being continuously bullied at school. Daniel Fitzpatrick left a note for his family, lamenting how no one at school would listen or help after he was continuously tormented because of his weight, shyness, and grades. Daniel said he “gave up” after teachers and authorities were aware of his situation, and continued to turn a blind eye.
This tragic story is a reminder as students head back to school that mental health is just as important as physical health. Over the past few years, incidents involving bullying have escalated across campuses throughout the U.S. An alarming one out of every four students have reported being bullied during one school year, with 64% of those bullied being too ashamed to report the incident. Only 36% of kids are actually getting help. Bullying doesn’t stop in the school room. Cyberbullying, which refers to internet or mobile bullying, typically affects teenagers.
Cyberbullying includes threatening, rumor-mongering, and outright harmful text messages or social media posts about someone, or even taking someone else’s identity online as a means to embarrass them. Bullied students can develop long term health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, and poor grades. Dr. Brenda Padilla, a psychologist at Legacy Community Health confirms, “The impact of bullying can be varied and wide-ranging including mood changes like easily going from happy to sad to angry, withdrawing and isolating from friends and family, dropping grades and decreased motivation to succeed in school, and in some severe cases, suicide.”
How can parents help? It’s important to explain the difference between harmless and hurtful teasing. It’s also important for parents to explain that bullying is intentional and involves tormenting in a physical, verbal or psychological way. Educate kids on the consequences of bullying and how spreading rumors, hurtful teasing, in person or online, can do damage to a fellow peer’s health.
Dr. Padilla recommends the below ways to support your child or another young person who might be the victim of bullying:
1) Help identify a safe support system, which includes adults who they trust and talk to at school and in their community
2) When a child is having a hard day, ask them to share their feelings, engage in mindful exercises to help them cope with any tough situation at school
3) Encourage the young person to get involved in extracurricular activities. Sports and clubs that include a social aspect are especially helpful in continuing to build a sense of confidence and community for a young person.
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