Now that the summer is coming to a close, and schools are starting back up again, I feel like this is a good time to bring up the topic of bullying. Bullying is such a sensitive subject because there is no exact solution to solve it, nor a precise reason why bullying even starts. Most experts agree that bullying is child's way of expressing anger or their insecurity in an unhealthy way. Bullying can happen when there is no outlet for them at home, or their outbursts are being overlooked or categorized as just "kids being kids" by their parents or caregivers. Many times, children who engage in aggressive or bullying behavior suffer from depression, low self esteem, and poor confidence.
As a parent, what helpful and positive advice can you give your children if they are faced with a bullying situation? The age old "fight back" method just doesn't work. By telling your children to fight a bully, it just creates a situation of one child trying to "outbully" another. These days, schools are quick to punish both parties involved in a school altercation, regardless of who started it. Studies have shown the most effective thing your child can do is verbally stand up to their attacker and to tell a trusted adult. Help your child identify who they could tell and what they could do if faced with a bully. By preparing them in advance, this will give them more confidence to handle a situation if it ever arises. It also teaches your children that it is okay to talk about being bullied. Many children who are bullied feel ashamed, embarrassed, or even guilty. As parents, it is important to model open healthy communication so your child will feel comfortable coming to talk about bullying in their school.
But what if your child is the bully? If your child is engaging in verbal or physical aggression against others, it may be a sign that there is something going on with them beneath the surface. When faced with stress, depression, or anxiety, children often act out their behaviors at home and/or school. If your child begins acting out against their peers, it may be a sign of deeper emotional issues. It's important to help your child understand that these behaviors are not acceptable while at the same time giving them a safe space to help them express any underlying feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, or stress. Helping children learn healthy outlets to their feelings is crucial. Left unchecked, behavioral issues that appear in childhood can continue into adulthood. The key factor is to learn how to effectively eliminate them early on and to set a good example for others in doing so. The more conversations you have with your kids about identifying the bullying behavior, the better equipped you both will be to handle any situation that comes up.
If your child is experiencing bullying at school or is beginning to act out against others, please give us a call at (813) 340-6955 for information about how our therapy services can help your family.