Help is Here: Bullying is never OK – here’s help

Beth Holden
Director of Home and Community Services
Howard Center

BETH HOLDEN

Many kids look forward to the start of a new school year so they can catch up with friends and resume activities. For others, a new school year may trigger worry. Sometimes these feelings can be intense, like anxiety or fear.

Bullying may be one reason kids show signs of resisting the start of school. Here is some helpful information about bullying.

  • What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone manipulates, coerces, harms, or harasses another person directly or indirectly, more than one time. Bullying includes repeated teasing, spreading rumors, intimidating behavior, talking about hurting someone, using force or pressure to make someone do something they don’t want to do, putting something embarrassing or dangerous in someone’s locker, or intentionally excluding someone.

Cyberbullying occurs online through text messages, emails, or social media. It also encompasses sharing embarrassing pictures, videos, or making fake profiles. Youth today are often more sophisticated about technology than the adults in their lives and have access to many tools.

  • How do you know if your child is being bullied?

Children may not tell an adult that they are being bullied because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or may fear retaliation. If your child has unexplained injuries, headaches, an upset stomach, or changes in eating habits, you may want to talk with the child to see what might be happening or upsetting. Other signs to investigate include frequently asking to stay home from school, difficulty sleeping, and declining grades. Or, they may have lost clothing, electronic items, or jewelry because other kids may be taking them.

If your children come home from school especially hungry, is it because their lunch was stolen? Or did they skip lunch because they were getting teased about being overweight? Other indicators may include loss of interest in favorite activities, disconnection from close friends, or engaging in bullying behavior themselves.

  • Why do kids bully?

Some children begin to bully others because they want to copy their friends. They may think bullying will help them fit in or prevent them from being bullied, or they try to elevate their own social status by acting as if they are better than the child they are bullying.

  • How do kids react to bullying?

When kids witness bullying, they may feel scared, sad, worried, angry, or powerless. Students may find ways to stay home from school because they don’t feel safe. They may join in the bullying, or they may stay silent so they won’t get bullied. Children may also stand up to the bully, which can have unpredictable outcomes. Knowing your child’s temperament may inform what response your child may have.

  • What can you do to take a stand against bulling?

In Vermont, there are state laws and school rules about bullying. Ask your school about its anti-bullying policies and curriculums. As an adult, you can help children manage the cyber world by talking openly, obtaining passwords as part of an electronics privilege, and being curious about what’s happening with peers and social media. Ask your children who they would go to at school if they felt frightened or saw something unsafe. If they don’t know, there’s an opportune moment to devise a plan. And maybe most importantly, let children know that bullying is never OK —   not in person, on the computer, on the phone, or through texting. Clear parental expectations matter!

For more information and resources about bullying, visit the Youth Yellow Pages at howardcenter.org/youth-yellow-pages.

Howard Center improves the well-being of the community by helping people with mental health, substance use, and developmental services. Help is here. howardcenter.org.

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