QUESTION: Bullying is negatively impacting the mental health of my children. What resources should I look into?
ANSWER: Bullying is intentionally aggressive behavior that occurs within the context of an imbalance of power or strength. It is repeated behavior that can be physical, verbal or social. Boys may bully others physically while girls often bully others verbally and through social exclusion. This is a growing and deeply serious problem and can happen whenever children are together, which is most often at school or online. Preventing and stopping bullying requires a commitment from teachers, parents and students to create a safe environment where children can flourish and prosper socially and academically without being made to feel afraid.
In terms of resources, there are several evidence-based bullying prevention programs that have been successfully implemented in school systems around the country. The most effective are school-wide programs which include curriculum for teaching students appropriate strategies for dealing with bullying, as well as for training teachers and administrators how to provide support to students who report bullying, how to improve observation in areas of the school where bullying most often happens, and how to effectively interrupt bullying. Some of the most frequently implemented and studied programs include the Bullying Prevention program by the U,S. Department of Education’s Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, Second Step: Social and Emotional Learning Program from the nonprofit Committee for Children, and Clemson University’s Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
It is important for parents to learn the signs and symptoms a child is being bullied so they can watch for these in their own children and to learn the best ways of responding if necessary and appropriate. Since bullying very frequently happens online and out of the view of others, parents should always be aware of and pay attention to their children’s social media activity. They should also collect their children’s phones at bedtime to prevent overnight bullying (and to help improve their kids’ sleep). Finally, a child who is being bullied can benefit significantly from talking with a licensed behavioral health therapist who can provide support, understanding and suggestions in a private, confidential setting.
This question from a reader was answered by Ed Jones, MA. She practices at Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg.