Back to Bullying: New School Year, New Challenges
As summer ends and the new school year begins, the old standbys of childhood return. Early mornings, homework, and afterschool activities are back. And so is bullying.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines bullying as, “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.”
And while the stereotypical image of bullying is of bigger kids with threatening looks saying, “Give me your lunch money,” we now know that bullying comes in many forms and many places. It’s not just physical violence children face, but also verbal abuse and relational manipulation.
To make matters worse, bullying doesn’t take place only in the schoolyard. A 2015 survey found that 20% of high school students have been bullied on high school property, while another 16% reported being bullied electronically.
Children who are bullied face all types of side effects, including physical, educational and mental health issues. As a result, the detection of possible bullying should be a top priority for parents. www.Stopbullying.gov lists the following symptoms as signs of bullying to look for:
- Unexplainable injuries,
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry,
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness,
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares,
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school,
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations,
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem,
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.
Jocelyn Daigle, Program Supervisor of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at Jefferson Cherry Hill, shares her expertise on the subject saying, “Bullying can certainly play a role in lowering self-esteem, self-confidence and lead children down a path to anxiety and depression.”
As for recommendations for parents, Daigle points out the importance of involvement on the part of adults. “You have to talk to your children. Educate them on what bullying is, and make sure they are comfortable talking to you about what’s going on in their lives. If you suspect bullying is taking place, talk to educators, administrators - basically anyone who is a position to protect your children.”
If you or someone you know is concerned about bullying, contact Jefferson Health’s Behavioral Health Department at 1-800-528-3425.