By Dr. Heather Hurd
Bullying is no joke these days. Bullying used to be a big kid taking a little kid’s lunch money, or knocking them down. That bullying still happens. But today there is another kind of bullying, bullying with words. Examples include telling everyone in the class not to be friends with a child or teen, or texting the class that they should post mean things about a child or teen on facebook. Enough of these actions piled on and it can lead to significant depression symptoms or even worse.
This “new” kind of bullying is also called relational aggression. You may think of the movie “Mean Girls” and while it sort of hits the mark, unfortunately it can be mild compared with what some children/teens live through. If children/teens are unique in some way this can unfortunately make them easy targets for bullies. Children and teens that dress, act differently, have unique viewpoints, and have problems in learning or social areas are especially at risk for being
The biggest thing to know about bullying? The worst outcomes are for children/teens
that are bullied and do not fight back. These kids are often times told to “ignore” the peers. Remember the old saying “let it roll off your back”? Unfortunately this is not possible for children who are repeatedly bullied. Often times children/teens are internalizing these
actions and feel worse and worse over time. Doubly unfortunate are the schools with zero tolerance policies, and a “walk away" strategy for dealing with conflict/bullies. These policies pidgeon-hole children into not responding to bullying, not standing up for themselves like they need to do.
This is the first blog on the subject of
bullying and there will be additional articles
on this. But to start here are a short list of things you can and should do right now if you think your child is being bullied.
1. Talk to your child/teen. Encourage him/her to talk to you about friendships and kids at
school without judgement about what happened. It is important that your child
feel that he/she can come to you with a problem.
2. Follow up with the school about the
bullying incidents reported. Right away. Not later. Right away. Follow up with the teacher and others if necessary (bus driver, lunch monitors, recess monitors).
3. Ask the school counselors and psychologists about school-wide bullying programs, initiatives. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Ask them if there are things that could be put in place to build positive social environment at school.
4. Find out if it is possible to pair your child up with a peer buddy. These children can build a relationship and look out for each other at school. This can be incredibly helpful for children who need to think longer about their “comeback” statements. These children come up with a great counterline to an insult about an hour after an encounter. This
happens to a lot of us. And we know who we are! The peer buddy may be better at
“thinking on his/her feet” and can jump in right away with a defender/deflector
5. Pair up your child with a “safe adult” at school to go to in case of a big problem (teacher, aid, counselor) so that he or she knows what to do in a panic moment. (Possibly a bullying situation). Hopefully they never have to use this contingency. But if
they have to use it, having a plan and seeking out an adult will be the best
thing to have put in place.
If you think your child is at risk for being bullied and you need assistance please
give me a call 608-228-0882.
Wishing you and yours health and happiness,
Dr. Heather D. Hurd
Please watch for my next blogs:
---Autism and Bullying: Especially at Risk
---Guess Who Needs Intervention As much as the One Being Bullied? The Bully, Actually.