Information via accrediting organization American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Every child has the right to feel safe at school and bullying destroys that sense of safety. It not only affects children while they are at school, but it often follows them home and invades their computers and cell phones. Bullying frequently places schools at odds with parents and parents in limbo with their children. Due to these factors, along with bullying being a hot topic throughout the media in the last few years, it is important to know exactly what is meant when the term bullying is used. There is not a simple answer, but the gist of it is this: bullying includes a set of behaviors that intentionally cause harm to another person. These behaviors occur because a person feels or is thought to be stronger than the other, and these behaviors are often repeated over time. There is usually some gain for the bully.
Bullying affects the children targeted by the bullying behaviors to parents, teachers, and communities that have to deal with the aftermath that these behaviors have on their community. It is much more than a student issue or a school issue; it is a community and society issue as well. The occurrence of bullying not only hinges upon personal choices by students and parents but also on the overall messages and lessons that a society sends to its young people. It is a systemic problem so a systemic solution is necessary. With all these factors involved in the problem of bullying, it makes sense that the proper response would be to address all of these areas: students, teachers, schools, parents, and communities. The best interventions are ones that involve all of these arenas. It takes cooperation on all levels to not only deal with specific instances of bullying, but also to create an atmosphere that suffocates bullying behavior and decreases its occurrence in schools and in the community.
The simple answer is this: as soon as the bullying comes to your attention, you should contact the school. The longer it goes unchecked the greater effect it will have on the child and the school population as a whole. This is not a problem that will take care of itself. Find out if your school has a bully prevention program, who to report to, what actions will be taken, and how you can be involved in your child’s safety. You can also seek the help of other mental health providers, such as marriage and family therapists, who are trained to work with families and individuals alike. They can also help interface between schools and parents.
The following are some common signs that a child is being bullied:
Be sure to pay close attention to any abrupt changes in behaviors or emotionality. These are signs that something is going on with your child and you should ask your child about his or her school experiences. Bullying is a major problem and should not be ignored. Not only does one risk lowered school performance or school avoidance, but also long-term emotional and social damage, as well as self-harming behaviors and suicide. Marriage and family therapists are trained to deal with these issues, as well as assist the family in adjusting to these behaviors, working with the school, and in providing social skills training for either a child who is being bullied or a child who is bullying other children.
The text of this consumer update was written by Anjali Pinjala, PhD, and Jeremy Pierce, MA.
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