Is Your Child Being Bullied? : The Compass

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Is Your Child Being Bullied?

by Clinicians at Ganey Counseling on 04/10/17

Every day, it is estimated that over 150,000 children around the country skip school because of bullying. Becoming the victim of bullying has significant impacts on the emotional, physical, and psychological health of children and the pain from the experience can be overwhelming. In spite of the frequency of this type of experience, many parents don't know the warning signs and if they do, they don't know what to do when they see it!

Common Warning Signs:

1. Unexplained injury or loss of property
2. Feeling ill frequently or faking illness to avoid school, bus, activity, etc. 
3. Changes in sleeping or eating habits
4. Declining grades
5. Sudden loss or changes in friends/avoidance of social situations
6. Self-destructive behaviors such as running away, self harm, etc. 
7. Sad, angry, anxious, depressed, or mood changes with little explanation 
8. Bullying behaviors towards siblings or close friends
9. Decreased self esteem

These common signs are not exclusive to bullying, nor is this list all encompassing. As a parent, you know your child best. Watch your child's reactions. Keep an open dialogue surrounding daily events & don't be afraid to ask questions. Keep in mind that children may feel helpless or be fearful of telling you about bullying and so they may avoid the topic or defend the bully at times. They may also be fearful of punishment or ridicule for being bullied. If you suspect your child is being bullied, as you are talking to your child, watch their body language. Silence can be a powerful window into what's going on in your child's mind and life. 

What do I do if I suspect my child is being bullied?

If you've noticed several of the warning signs in your child or your child has disclosed the bullying to you, it's certainly time to act. Whether you act immediately or encourage your child to act often depends on the child, their age, their situation, etc. Regardless of the specifics, once bullying is identified something needs to be done. 

1. First of all, the leaders, educators and/or coaches who interact with your child consistently in the setting of the bullying need to be notified. While an email is good way to start this conversation, an in person meeting is always best and can help make the process more effective. These people can help to confirm the bullying, as well as shed some light on the specifics of the situation that can help to eliminate the situation in the future. Document everything that happens in this meeting!

2. Continue to stress to your child that you are always available and that you are concerned. Letting them know you are there for them can help to reduce the fear of exposure they might feel and allow them to take healthy steps forward. Emphasize that you believe them and want to help them in any way you can. 

3. Identify the specifics of the bullying such as time, place, circumstances, actions, etc. and document everything! Any serious threats made outside of the school should be communicated to law enforcement. 

4. Develop a "team" and make a plan. Once bullying has been confirmed, keep the lines of communication open with teachers, coaches, principles, etc. in order to work towards solving the problem. Be sure to relay the facts and do your best to keep your emotions at bay. Try to stay on the same team as school leadership and administration. Ask what you can do together! As previously stated, document any communication and/or decisions that are made. 

5. Follow up! It's okay to hold the school administration accountable to their anti-bullying policy! That's the purpose of your documentation. Continue following up with your child to ensure the bullying stops. 

6. Contact a mental health professional for support and to help your child handle all they are experiencing. 

Bullying is a terrible experience for children, as well as for their parents. Always seek the support needed through those trained to handle these types of situations and educate yourself. There are numerous resources available and Ganey Counseling and Consultation would be happy to help you find and/or utilize them. You don't have to fight bullying alone!

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