Bully Proofing Our Kids
We did it! We made it through the summer, took a vacation, and got the kids back in school. Finally, life is starting to return to normal.
But watch out!
It is during this time of year that some kids would rather be anywhere than school, because going back to school means they might be bullied or picked on.
Some studies say that nearly a third of all students aged 12 – 18 years old have been bullied at one time or another. Some children report being bullied daily.
As a parent, you should know that bullying can occur in all grade levels, but is most widespread in middle school. Emotional bullying is the most common type (name calling, ridiculing, or shaming), followed by physical bullying (pushing, shoving, tripping, or even spitting on someone).
Whether our kids are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, it is important we spend some time with them–especially early in the school year–to ensure they are bully proof. Helping them develop a strong sense of self is a great place to start, because bullies often target kids with low self-esteem. Without a healthy amount of self-confidence, kids are less likely to stick up for themselves, and bullies see this as an invitation to attack.
To improve self-esteem, experts recommend encouraging kids to explore activities that make them feel good about themselves, activities like volunteering, playing sports, singing in a chorus, or joining a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect them from bullying.
Encouraging courageous actions is another great way to make sure our kids are prepared to deal with bullies and their intimidating behavior. When groups of young people stand together against a bully, the bully is more likely to back down and less likely to bully again.
As adults, as soon as we hear about bullying, we should respond quickly and consistently to let bullies know their behavior will not be tolerated. Research indicates that addressing bullying immediately helps stop it from occurring.
The website www.stopbullying.gov is a great resource for parents; it provides several tips to stop bullying, including:
Separate the kids involved.
Make sure everyone is safe.
Stay calm and model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
Don’t ignore it.
Don’t assume kids can work it out without adult help.
Get police help immediately if:
A weapon is involved.
There are threats of serious physical injury.
There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
There is serious bodily harm.
There is sexual abuse.
How can you tell if your child is the victim of bullying? Bullying affects kids in many ways: some lose sleep or feel sick; others lose interest in school. If your child’s grades plummet, if he or she disconnects with friends, quits favorite activities, doesn’t want to go to school, or is suddenly sick enough to stay home much of the time; it’s time to ask what’s going on.
Let your child know there is nothing too terrible to share with you, whether it’s drugs, sex, violence, or something else. Promise to listen to your child’s opinions with an open mind and come up with plans together to confront bullying. Nothing helps more than for kids to know someone cares about their struggles–and will work with them to find a solution.
When victims of bullying can’t see a solution, they occasionally feel desperate enough to consider suicide. If you are a teenager feeling hopeless or helpless, or you know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They understand bullying and are there to help those who are being bullied.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.