Bullying: Tips for Parents
When Phoebe Prince committed suicide after being endlessly taunted and bullied, it made national news. Last week, as students were arrested for participating in the bullying, it made national news again. Parents are rightfully concerned. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center :
- Approximately one in every three youth in the United States is involved in bullying, either as the person bullying another or as the victim of bullying.
- More than one in 10 children (in grades 6-10) claimed they were the targets of bullies.
- Bullying in males often includes hitting, slapping or pushing.
- Bullying among females often includes spreading malicious gossip and encouraging others to reject or exclude someone.
- Almost all bullying includes making fun of someone.
Bullying, however, doesn't just impact social skills or self-esteem, it can cause lower school performance or avoiding school all together.
Schools are much more aware and sensitve to bullying today than in the past and most teachers will take an active role in putting an end to such behavior in their classroom or on the recess yard. However, many children that are being bullied are afraid to talk with a parent or teacher, worrying that the bullying behavior will become worse if they "tattle" on another child.
Parents can be on the look out for some signs that their child may be being bullied:
- Changes in your child's mood including feelings of sadness or anxiousness.
- Socially withdrawing, not wanting to attend school, being uncharacteristically quiet.
- Avoiding eye contact when questioned about school or avoiding discussing school.
- Unexplained headaches, stomachaches or other health problems.
- Unexplained marks, such as scratches or bruises.
- Feelings of fear that were not present before.
- Loss of appetite or disrupted sleep.
Although not all children will exhibit these signs, if your child does, it may be a warning that there is something going on at school that is causing distress. If you believe your child may be being bullied, the first step would be to contact your child's teacher. You should ask the teacher if he or she has seen any indication of bullying. Some other questions to ask:
- How is your child getting along with other students?
- Does your child play with other children during recess?
- Does your child seem isolated from the other students?
Ask the teacher if he or she could observe the interactions between your child and the other students over the next few days and set up an appointment to talk again. If the teacher has noticed some problems, discuss what specific actions the teacher and the school intend to take to put an end to the bullying.
Even though you address the situation with the teacher, parents should speak with their child and find out, from their perspective, what is going on and what other children are involved. Keep track, on a daily basis, of any incidents your child tells you about. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to speak with teachers and other school personnel.
If, after your meeting with the teacher, you are not satisfied with the results, it is time to speak directly with the principal. Outline what you know, your conversations with the teacher and what incidents have continued to occur. The school should investigate all claims of bullying and provide you with information on what they intend to do.
For additional information:
 "Bullying Facts and Statistics", UPdates 2007, Dec 27, National Youth Violence Prevention Center
"Protect Your Children from Bullying and Support Safe Schools", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, OLWEUS, Bullying Prevention Program
"Tips for Parents of Children Being Bullied", 2006, Nov 30, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services