The new school year has begun! Each school year brings the opportunity for fresh starts, new friends, and new opportunities. I wanted to use this time to touch on a subject that is so important, but difficult to discuss whether you are a parent, teacher, or student: bullying.
Bullying and harassment can take on many forms: physical, social, mental, verbal, and now even cyberbullying. Bullying has been a problem for generations, but is now getting even more attention and it is our job as a community to stand behind our children and fight back against bullying. But how do we recognize that there is a problem and what can we do?
School age children do not always want to confide in their parents, so you may not realize anything is wrong right away. Some signs that your child may be a victim are a decline in grades, change in behavior, or nightmares and bedwetting. We are seeing more depression and anxiety in children, and bullying can be a contributing factor. Being bullied takes a real physiologic toll on the body, so you might see that your child is sick more often. This may manifest as stomach aches, headaches, or chest pain.
On the flip-side, if your child is a little more aggressive than most other kids, does not follow instructions well or respect adults or leaders, or has a history of harming animals, your child may need help, too! These are cries for help and early signs of a bully that eventually could lead to even more detrimental behavior in the adult years if not caught early.
The earlier parents and friends recognize bullies AND victims, the sooner both groups can be helped. Reach out to teachers, principals, your pediatrician, and/or counselors to see what your child may need to improve his self-esteem and insure that he is in a safe, loving, and nurturing environment. Do not be ashamed to reach out to someone.
Ask your school if the Alabama Student Harassment Prevention Act is in place; ask your child if they feel safe; be good role models for your children at home; and surround them with love and guidance! Talk to your children starting at a young age about being kind and embracing people’s differences. Teach them to be brave and stand up to bullying at school by befriending the lonely child or telling an adult if someone is being bullied. The change can start with this generation and with you!