Nearly every person has experienced bullying, whether you’ve been bullied or were the bully. While many consider bullying “one of those things that every kid goes through,” the effects of bullying are certainly not to be minimized.
Bullying is defined by stopbullying.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, as “unwanted, aggressive, and often repeated behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
Researchers presenting at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting last spring shared the results of a study examining the mental health outcomes of young adults who were bullied as children. The findings indicated that adults who were bullied as children were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than adults who as children were neglected or abused. The study found that those bullied suffered a number of physical health consequences including increased tissue inflammation.
A second study yielded evidence that “being bullied as a child puts an individual at high risk for depressive disorders. About 12 percent of the study participants were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before age 30.”
Further, 31 percent of the participants who as children were bullies and also bullied themselves had high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and substance abuse.
Children who bully and are bullied, according to one researcher, are likely having psychiatric problems. Bullying, whether the aggressor or victim, affects children socially, emotionally and psychologically.
Tracy Nicholas, mother and author of Is Your Child Really ‘Fine?’ How to Know and How to Help, addressed in her book the stigma of bullying, the ability that children have to gloss over the issue and what parents can do to stop bullying. She wrote that children become bullies because they are hurting. “Children who bully are ‘stuffing down’ the hurt. They don’t tell their parents, teachers or others and don’t deal with their emotions. The bullying is a way of acting out.”
To Combat Bullying
- Help children understand what bullying is and that it is unacceptable.
- Teach your child how to safely stand up for himself. Be certain your child knows how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with your child often; ask questions, such as:
- What was something good that happened today?
- How was lunch time today?
- Who did you sit with?
- What is it like to ride the bus to school?
- Go to school events.
- Meet your child’s friends.
- Share phone numbers with parents in your child’s class.
- Get to know your child’s bus driver, teachers and coaches.
- Encourage your child to do things they love. Encourage activities such as volunteering, playing sports or joining a youth group or school club. This builds confidence.
- Model how to treat others with respect and kindness.