Bullying: A National Epidemic

From our October 2011 newsletter: 

Popular culture often regards bullying as a fact of life — a normal part of childhood that one must endure and learn to handle. Children sing the old adage about sticks and stones, but words used with intent to harm have been proven to cause serious damage, mentally and physically. As more high-profile teen suicides continue to emerge in the news, it is becoming clear that bullying is a serious problem. Over 60% of elementary and secondary school students rate bullying as the biggest problem in their lives.  About 40-80% of students experience it at some point in their school life. 

What can parents do?

About 30% of bullying victims tend to remain silent, so it can be difficult for a parent to know if, when, where and how to intervene. Here are some tips for parents on dealing with this sensitive subject.

1. Look for any signs of bullying. Anxiety about school, any mention of teasing, lack of desire to talk about school, moodiness and withdrawal, sleep problems, and unexplained cuts or bruises all count.

2. Find out what’s going on. Make a habit of casually asking about school and expressing interest. Keep it low-key – children are less likely to respond if they feel they are being interrogated. Ask open-ended questions to foster elaboration and dialogue instead of questions that can be answered with a yes or no.

3. Supervise and limit computer time. Bullying can take many forms, including cyberbullying. For children, the internet is like a virtual playground with little, if any, adult supervision, making it easy (and likely) for bullying to occur.

4. Problem solve with your child. Identify the problem and encourage your child to brainstorm potential strategies with you (“What are some things you think you/we might do?”) Talk about the consequences of each strategy and decide together which is best. Rather than solving the problem for your child, you can teach your child how to cope and handle interpersonal problems by solving the issue together. 

5. Contact the school and other parents to begin a school effort to combat bullying. 

6. Contact us (the Yale Parenting Center).

Bullying is a serious problem that negatively impacts everyone involved — not just the victims, but bullies and bystanders as well. By being aware and taking action, parents can take steps toward reducing this problem that is affecting children across the nation. 

For more information: http://www.slate.com/id/2223976

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