Q&A: Signs of Bullying

Safety | Mental Health | August 28, 2019
Young boy at school with taunting students in the background
I think my 7th grade son is being bullied. What can I do to help?

Bullying is more common than some may think, so it’s good you’re considering it as a possibility. The National Center for Education reports that 21% of American students between the ages of 12 and 18 experience bullying. It can be physical (hitting, pushing, rude hand gestures), verbal (teasing, inappropriate comments, threatening to harm) or social.

Bullying affects everyone

Adolescence is a particularly important time, as children develop social maturity and connections. Being excluded by someone on purpose, embarrassed by someone in public or talked about through rumors are all examples of social bullying that can be very upsetting for a young person. 

Bullying affects everyone — so we need to work together as a community to stop it. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, but any time is a good time to shine a light on this important topic.Teen girls laughing at another girl

Whether a child is being bullied, bullying others or witnessing bullying, they’re all at increased risk for health concerns. They may be more prone to depression or anxiety, experience changes in sleep or appetite, have trouble achieving academic success or be more likely to try tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.

If you’re not sure how to talk to your son about bullying, I recommend the website stopbullying.gov for resources.

The most important thing is open communication. Let him know he’s cared for and that bullying is unacceptable.

Tips to share with your child

Here are a few ways to help encourage your son:

  • Continue to ask questions and listen when he’s ready to answer.
  • Suggest that he talk to a trusted adult about bullying. 
  • Offer ways to be safe, like saying “Stop!” and walking away.
  • Encourage him to get involved in positive activities, like sports, music, clubs or youth groups, where he can have fun and make friends with similar interests.

More you can do as a parent

Mother and teenage daughter having a talkDon’t be afraid to reach out to school staff, including teachers, counselors and administrators. More and more schools are training staff to recognize bullying and prevent it before it starts — but they can’t be effective if they don’t know what’s happening on campus.

And of course, we all need to remember to model good behavior for our young people. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

This healthy living tip courtesy of Tricia Schroffner, nurse practitioner.