By Linda Diaz

Young people should be able to have fun with friends and joking can help make growing up fun. There are times though, that joking crosses a line and a child may not know they are being bullied, or in an attempt to keep a friend or seem cool, they may keep their pain silent. Bullying happens everywhere, at every age, and not just in school. No one is born with a predisposition to being bullied and bullying others is a learned behavior.

The best tool that we can provide to our youth is education. Technology in the classroom is continuously growing and more youth are excelling in school, but this does not mean that they are learning how to properly handle social adversities or life events. As parents and child care givers, we must understand bullying in order to help our youth develop the necessary coping skills. Let’s begin with the types of bullying:

  • Verbal Bullying: Teasing, taunting, name calling
  • Physical Bullying: Hitting, pushing, spitting, throwing things
  • Cyber Bullying: Texting or emailing mean messages/pictures, posting mean or embarrassing comments/pictures on social media, creating fake profiles of another person with malicious intent
  • Social Bullying: Purposely leaving another person out of a group, forcing others not to be friends with someone, gossiping/spreading rumors, embarrassing another in public
  • Familial Bullying: Controlling family members with manipulation or guilt, forcing a family member to lie or withhold honesty

If your child is experiencing bullying, discussing it with them can change or even save their life. Being bullied, engaging in bullying – even being a bystander to bullying – all have undeniable, life-altering effects on people, well into adulthood. Not sure what to look for? Here are some signs of a child in crisis, which can help you start the difficult conversation:

  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches
  • Changes in eating habits or weight gain/loss
  • Change in sleep habit; sleeping significantly more or less
  • Falling grades; loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home, harming themselves or making statements that they don’t want to be here anymore

Bullying is traumatic and can cause depression, post-traumatic stress and many other forms of mental illness. What a child in crisis needs most is a person that will listen and not judge them. Their pain needs to be acknowledged. Comparing the stress of today’s youth to the stresses of kids in 2000, 1950 or any other time, does nothing but further push a child into being silent. Let’s dive deeper into the three most prevalent forms of bullying.

Verbal bullying is by far the most common form of social aggression, and without emotional resilience, is incredibly hurtful. By teaching our youth that they are in control of their emotions, that they can choose NOT to get upset, we give them power. Furthermore, when bullying, the aggressor is looking for a reaction; be it sadness, anger, whatever. When we teach our kids not to react emotionally, the aggressor doesn’t get what they want, it isn’t fun for them and they move on.

Physical bullying is very similar. If your child is being repeatedly poked, flicked or hit (without causing injury), their reaction will dictate whether or not it continues. It’s important though, to make the distinction between physical bullying and assault. If your child is being hit or kicked and actually being harmed, a crime is being committed and needs to be reported as such.

Cyber bullying has become incredibly common with the abundance of modern technology and can feel inescapable for youth who are active on social media. While teaching your child to be resilient and to not take mean words/posts/memes to heart is most important, there are other steps you can take as well. Click here to download your Responding to Cyberbullying Checklist.

We can stop aggressive and unwanted tragedies of tomorrow, by standing together today!

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