When kids reach school-age, one of the biggest challenges parents have to face is to know what they go through while in school. It can be nerve-wracking to worry about their lives around other people and their susceptibility to unfortunate encounters such as bullying. Statistics show that 28% of young individuals from grade six through 12 have been a victim of bullying. State laws differ in the definition of bullying, but mental health practitioners define bullying as physical or verbal aggression that is done repeatedly over a period of time and involves an imbalance of power between parties. Bullying comes in different forms – physical, which involves hitting, kicking, and pushing; verbal, such as name-calling, insults, making sexual or bigoted remarks; relational, which refers to excluding someone from a peer group; and reactive, in which the bully responds to being bullied by being a bully himself.
Also alarming is the fact that only about 40% of children tell their parents that they are being bullied. Repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm to children and can be seriously detrimental to the child’s mental health. Victims report high levels of emotional distress such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem. Most victims refuse to disclose their experience due to feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, and fear of repercussions. Parents, then, must be proactive in looking for warning signs to find out if their children have been victims of bullying. Here are some of the possible warning signs that parents can watch out for. These signs can indicate other problems, and patterns of such behaviors must be looked into in order to determine underlying causes.
- Physical marks, bruises, and cuts that are unexplained
- School supplies, toys, clothing, lunches that are lost or damaged, without any explanation from the child
- Sudden loss of interest in school activities or going to school
- Fear of riding the school bus
- Appearing suddenly withdrawn and evasive; expresses feelings of loneliness
- Obvious change in behavior and personality
- Being sad, moody, anxious, angry, or depressed with no apparent reason
- Physical complaints such as headaches and stomach aches
- Change in sleep patterns, bedwetting, nightmares, and crying to sleep
- Change in eating habits
- Starts bullying siblings and other children
- Have fewer friends or changing peer groups
- Very hungry when he comes home (some bullies take their victims’ lunches or lunch money)
- Waits to get home to use the restroom (school restrooms can be “bully hot spots”)
- Expresses that he is not good enough; blames self for problems
- Running away from home; talking about suicide
As always, communication is key. Providing an open and accepting environment at home can make prevention and intervention easier to do. If there are warning signs observed, it is helpful to ask direct questions to the child, such as “Your shirt is ripped. Did someone do that to you?” and pay attention to how the child responds including his body language, facial expression, and his silence. Parents are advised to communicate with school personnel and work out ways to address the problem. Furthermore, children are protected by law against bullying as the majority of the states have laws against bullying, with 20 of them specifically included cyberbullying in the description. Addressing a serious problem such as bullying entails collaborative effort between parents, the school, and the state.
Is your child a victim of bullying in school? Contact us at Hogan Injury for a consultation.
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