As we are all getting ready to send our kids back to school, the topic of bullying starts to become more prevalent. It is plastered all over the news these days with school shootings, cyber bullying, teen suicides being linked back to bullying. Bullying can come in different forms but the most common are verbal- calling names and putting others down, physical- hitting, kicking, pushing, or social- leaving people out or spreading lies about them. So this leaves many parents with a lot of questions: does bullying really lead to aggression in schools, how do I know if my kid is being bullied or bullying other kids, and how do I protect my kid from being bullied? I want to offer parents and others answer some of these questions and have some ways to start talking with your kids about bullying.
Does bullying really lead to aggression in schools? Research shows there is an association between bullying and aggression in schools. One such research conducted by the U.S. Secret Service developed and implemented the Safe School Initiative project to study violence in schools. They found in several cases, bullying played a pivotal role in the assault. In over 2/3 of the cases, the attackers felt bullied, persecuted, threatened, attacked, or injured by others preceding the attack. Several had experienced severe and longstanding bullying and harassment, and in these cases, the bullying experience was a motivating factor for the attack. So this along with other research shows bullying is something to be taken serious by parents and school personnel.
How do I know if my kid is being bullied or bullying other kids? Your kids suddenly have fewer friends, are afraid of going to school or other activities, they frequently have damaged or missing clothing or other belongings, or they talk about wanting to die. The warning signs your kid is bullying others are a little different and these include: being violent with peers, frequently having extra money or belongings, blaming others for problems, or having friends who bully others.
How do I protect my kid from being bullied? It is important to start talking with your kid about what bullying is and how they can respond to bullying; these cartoon clips on bullying can be a great conversation starter with kids: http://www.stopbullying.gov/kids/webisodes/index.html. Other ways to help protect against bullying is getting involved at your kid’s school, knowing what is going on in your kid’s day, or asking their school to start an anti-bulling initiative. If bullying continues or increases you can contact your kid’s teacher or principle, a counselor, or even the police if you feel you kid is in immediate danger.
Jennifer Wilmoth, LAMFT