Is your child being bullied?

PeaceHealth physician encourages parents to talk to their children about bullying. It's not 'just a normal part of growing up.'

October 10, 2018

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Have you noticed a change in your child’s behavior? Do they ‘lose’ items frequently, or have unexplained injuries? Have they been sleeping poorly or complain of ailments to get out of going to school?

If these behaviors sound familiar, your child may be the victim of bullying. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves abuse that can be emotional or physical. Online bullying has also become prevalent. According to a U.S. Department of Education study, 28 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 report experiencing bullying.

Bullying can have lasting impacts. It’s important for parents and other adults actively involved in children’s lives to understand how it can be prevented, and what actions to take if they think a child is being bullied.

Pediatrician Jim Bochsler, MD, PeaceHealth Medical Group Northwest vice president medical director, encourages open and honest communication with children about bullying.

 “First and foremost, parents need to talk to their children about bullying before it happens,” Dr. Bochsler said. “Don’t be afraid to have those conversations; bullying isn’t just a ‘normal part’ of growing up. Children should be educated so they can recognize when they or someone they know is being bullied, and also how do deal with it when it does happen.”

What can children do if they are bullied?
Children are often scared and angry when they are bullied. They may not know what to do. Teach them to:

  • Talk back. Say: "Leave me alone," or "You don't scare me." Have your child practice saying this in a calm, strong voice.
  • Walk away. Don't run, even if you’re afraid.
  • Tell an adult. A parent or teacher can then take steps to stop the bullying.

How can parents tell if their child is being bullied?
Children who are being bullied may be embarrassed and not want to talk about it. Be aware of the signs so you can help resolve the problem.

If your child is being bullied, he or she may:

  • Have physical injuries. Bruises, cuts, scrapes and scratches are common.
  • "Lose" items frequently. Bullying often includes taking belongings or stealing lunch money or prepared lunches. Your child may come home from school without favorite toys, clothes or other items. He or she may also come home very hungry from having missed lunch.
  • Sleep poorly and develop frequent headaches, stomachaches and other physical problems. Or, your child may pretend to be sick or make other excuses to avoid certain people or situations.
  • Cry frequently or act differently. For example, a usually outgoing child may suddenly become withdrawn and sad. A shy child may become overactive and aggressive.
  • Not speak or show fear when certain people or situations are mentioned.
  • Suddenly receive lower grades or develop learning problems.
  • Talk about suicide.

Studies show that most bullying takes place at school.

“If your child is being bullied, help minimize the effects by being responsive and telling school officials immediately,” Dr. Bochsler said.  “It’s important that children who are bullied feel supported and protected, and for those who are bullying to be disciplined appropriately.”

For more information about bullying, check out these resources:
What is bullying?: https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/uf4870
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.stopbullying.gov
Online safety: https://www.peacehealth.org/healthy-you/infographic-9-apps-parents-should-know-about

About PeaceHealth: PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a not-for-profit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, a group practice with more than 900 providers and 10 medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest.

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