Your Child and Bullying: Tips for Parents and Communities By
Shay Bilchik, President and CEO, Child Welfare League of America
(ARA) - Many children in America today are terrified to attend
school. At the extreme, this is caused by the school shootings that have
occurred over the past ten years and once again recently on a reservation
in Red Lake, Minnesota. These shootings are tragedies that we must work
hard to end. But a much more common reason that children fear going to
school is because they are being teased, taunted and often physically
attacked at and on their way to and from school.
also known as bullying, is prevalent in the lives of 30 percent of school
children within a school year. It is a phenomenon that we must address and
is one that requires a coordinated response across our communities. Left
unchecked it creates an environment within our schools that leads to
greater and greater levels of violence, including the types of school
shootings that have tragically captured the nation's attention.
Would you know what to do if your child or someone you knew
constantly appeared sad, moody, teary or depressed, and has lost interest
or refuses to go to school? These symptoms are not uncommon and could be
signs that a student is being bullied. Bullying must no longer be treated
as a right of passage for children as they move through the school system.
It is too rampant in scope and the harm it causes is too profound to be
treated so lightly.
In one way or another all students are
impacted by the act of bullying. Children who are bullied are at a greater
chance of school failure, dropping out, depression, sleep disorders,
suicidal ideations, and committing acts of violence as a means of
retaliation. Children who act as the bully also are impacted -- having a
greater probability of committing criminal acts later in life,
perpetuating family violence and also committing suicide at a greater
rate. Bullying even harms the bystanders, leaving them feeling helpless,
out of control, intimidated and guilty for not taking action. It is
important for everyone to know what to do to protect all children from
bullying whether it is taking place in their schools or in their
Working in collaboration with the Child Welfare
League of America and others, the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services offers the following tips:
Bullying is no longer just a
school-yard issue. In light of the school shootings in the late 90s and
again in recent weeks, bullying is a problem that everyone needs to take
personally. There are resources out there that all of us can use. Go to
the Department of Health and Human Services Web site http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/ to find the tip
sheets that parents, peers, kids, administrators, law enforcement,
educators and communities can follow to do their part in making a
difference in the lives of children who are being bullied. If we do, we
may end up saving a child's life.
- Open up the lines of communication. Parents need to talk with their
children about what is happening in their kids' lives -- both the good
and the bad. This is particularly true about their hours in school and
whether there is anything troubling about their school experience.
- If you are unsure, check your sources. If you are not certain that
what your child is experiencing is bullying, do some research. There are
very clearly defined warning signs. Go to http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/ to see if any of
these fit the characteristics of your child.
- Help children take a stand. Empower children to notify an adult at
their school if they are experiencing bullying and to stand up for
themselves or others if they witness this action happening to their
peers. Empowering them may mean standing by their side as they report
this behavior to the school.
- Use every moment as a "teachable moment." Educators and school
administrators need to use every opportunity to address the topic of
bullying in their schools. They should use an incident of bullying as an
opportunity to let all involved know that bullying is not acceptable and
will not be allowed.
- Help to get your community focused on the problem of bullying. We
can all play a pivotal role in developing coalitions designed to tackle
this issue, helping to pass clear "codes of conduct" in our schools that
address bullying in a proactive way, and targeting bullying early.
- Get a prevention program started in your community. Don't attempt to
reinvent the wheel; instead consider one of the many useful programs
located on the StopBullyingNow.hrsa.gov Web site. You can access
information on step-by-step guides to get a program started where you
live. Law enforcement can also be a vital resource in spearheading your
- Don't think that peer mediation and conflict resolution are the
answer. Peer mediation and conflict resolution are not the best ways of
dealing with most instances of bullying. These methods can re-traumatize
the student who has been bullied and generally are not found to improve
the relationship between the parties. Instead, adults should help the
child being bullied to regain control of the situation through other
means -- providing support and safety from retaliation for the child and
any witnesses who report the bullying -- and holding the bully
accountable for their actions.
- Create a safe and secure place for children to hang out. Children
need a safe haven where they can feel protected from harm and deal with
the issues that they are facing. We can all help to provide these
places, while at the same time providing after school educational and
Courtesy of ARA Content
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