School bullying and your child
School bullying: What are the short and long term effects
School bullying is a growing problem in today’s schools and neighborhoods. Any parent is aware of the possibility that their child may be bullied at some point in their lives. Parents wonder how they can protect their child from bullying or better prepare them. For both the bully and the victim, bullying has an impact on their lives. This impact can last well into their adult years.
School bullying: What is bullying?
In a nutshell, bullying is a form of abuse that occurs between peers. It is an unwanted and aggressive behavior accompanied by an imbalance of power (even if this imbalance is merely perceived). This imbalance of power may include children using their physical strength to harm their peers, their popularity, or accessing embarrassing information.
A bully will use these to control others, often giving themselves the illusion of power and the poor perception that they are leaders among their peers. To be considered bullying, this aggressive behavior needs to be ongoing.
Bullying can be grouped into three categories:
- Physical bullying – spitting, kicking, pushing, rude hand gestures, tripping, take someone’s belongings.
- Verbal bullying – teasing, taunting, threatening to harm, name calling
- Social bullying – purposefully excluding a child from their group, spreading rumors, public embarrassment, or telling other children to not befriend the victim.
School bullying: Short term effects of bullying
For the child who is being bullied, they might find themselves having trouble sleeping since their sleep is often riddled with bad dreams or nightmares. Younger victims may begin experiencing bed wetting.
Victims of bullying will also have a low self-esteem and worth which in turn leads to depression and anxiety. This depression or anxiety may reveal itself in unexplained headaches or stomach-aches, a desire to avoid school altogether, and a social withdrawal. Their anxiety levels may rise sky high as they dread the prospect of riding the school bus, attending social events, and going to school.
Often the effects of bullying emphasize those traits or behaviors that bullies are attracted to. These behaviors or traits include a child who is socially awkward, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, has a learning disability or special need of sorts, physically weaker than their peers, or any other characteristic that sets them apart from their peers such as homosexuality or bisexuality.
School bullying: Long-term effects of bullying
Of course receiving professional mental health help goes a long way to preventing and reducing the long-term effects of bullying, the effects may still and often do remain. For those who receive no professional help, the effects are exacerbated. It is important to note that a bullied child needs to feel supported. Being there for them will be of the upmost importance.
When it comes to long-term effects, both the victim and the bully experience mental health issues. For the victim, these long-term effects include chronic depression with suicidal tendencies, an increase in suicide, an increase in self-harm, alcohol or substance abuse, and post-traumatic disorders.
The bully is not exempt from the long-term effects of bullying. They find themselves with a higher risk of criminal involvement before the age of 24, alcohol and drug dependency, maintaining long-term relationships becomes challenging, and relationships may also include abusive behaviors including spousal abuse and/or child abuse.
School bullying: How you can help
As a parent or caregiver, you are not helpless in helping your child recover from bullying. You are among one of the biggest anchors for your child in an otherwise scary and self-esteem sapping experience. Here are some ways that you can help your child:
Listen to your child without triggering into your own experiences of being bullied as a child. This includes not brushing your child’s emotions or experiences aside with a “they probably didn’t mean it” or “maybe they had a hard time at home this week”. Empathize with your child’s emotions. Allow your child to see that you are someone they can trust with their scary emotions and encounters. The safer you are, the more your child will confide in you.
At all times, you should be working to maintain an environment where your child feels safe and secure to talk to you. Don’t assign blame to your child for the bullying. Your child most probably did nothing to invite the bullying.
Communicate with your child
Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Share your feelings and experiences with your child. Encourage your child to confide in other adults that they look up to and have a good relationship with.
Give your child one liner
Teaching your child to not respond to the bully out of a place of anger or fear, will help your child recover from bullying and even prevent future bullying. Instruct your child to not fight fire with fire; instead, teach them one liner or short phrases that they can use to stand up for themselves without triggering further bullying. Your child also needs to know that they can and should walk away.
Ignore the bully
Teach your child how to ignore a bully by not responding verbally or physically. Role play this to help prepare your child to ignore bullying. This very quickly stops bullying in its tracks.
School bullying: Talk to teachers or other authoritative figures
Help your child to understand that school teachers are responsible for protecting the well-being of every child present at the school. Help your child understand the difference between telling on or tattling. A tattle is designed to get a child into trouble; telling involves informing people with authority or power to step into a situation for the protection and well-being of the students involved at the school.
Fraser-Thrill, Rebecca. 2016. Characteristics of the Typical Victim of Bullying. Verywell.com. https://www.verywell.com/characteristics-of-a-typical-victim-of-bullying-3288501
Sheridan, John W. 2010. Short and Long Term Effects of Bullying – The Victim & The Bully. Ezine Articles.com http://ezinearticles.com/?Short-and-Long-Term-Effects-of-Bullying—The-Victim-and-the-Bully&id=4615335
Bullying Definition. Stop Bullying.gov. https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/
Prager, Judit Simon, PhD.2011. Verbal First Aid: Healing the Scars of Bullying. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-simon-prager-phd/verbal-first-aid-healing_b_620950.html
Pincus, Debbie. 2016. Child and Teen Bullying: How to Help When Your Kid Is Bullied. Empowering Parents. https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/child-and-teen-bullying-how-to-help-when-your-kid-is-bullied/