As a child and family therapist, I have observed how bullying can affect children in very significant and long lasting ways. As a former target of bullying, I have experienced first hand feeling powerless and not having the education and skills to manage the situation.
Bullies look for weak links in the chain and then zero in on their targets. Those who experience low self-esteem and have challenges finding their voices are perfect targets. Many suffer in silence, lacking the tools to effectively deal with the bullying. In addition, bullying may cause symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even suicidality. This makes it even more challenging to muster the strength to speak up.
Whether our differences are physical, behavioral, or cultural, anything that causes us to stand out makes us prone to bullying. Since awareness is the first step to change, the more we learn how to stand up for ourselves, identify our strengths, and celebrate our differences, the more we will be able to extinguish the bullying behaviors.
Bullying touches us all in different ways, whether we are parents, family members, or members of the community. How can we come together in unity to support bully prevention?
1. K-Knowledge is power. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms of bullying. Excessive school absences due to frequent physical symptoms may be a sign that bullying is occurring either before, during, or after school. Children will avoid school at all costs to reduce contact with bullies. As mentioned earlier, significant mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression may also signify that bullying is taking place. Health care practitioners may be helpful for sorting out causes of prolonged physical and/or mental health symptoms.
2. I-Increase communication. Children need unconditional love and support from significant caregivers in their lives. Parents need to learn how to effectively communicate this love and support to their children. In addition, the more parents keep the lines of communication open, the easier it will be to talk to their children when challenging issues come up. Effective communication needs to be respectful, non judgmental, and consistent. Parents and caregivers may inadvertently contribute to bullying by talking down to their children, calling them names, and/or pointing out their differences or limitations in negative ways. It is important for adults to help their children identify their strengths, which will help increase their children’s self-esteem. Children also need to learn tools to effectively deal with bullying and work towards empowerment. Many schools are currently participating in bully prevention programs. However, adults may choose to attend parenting classes to increase their communication skills as well as to help educate and empower their children.
3. N- Notify school administrators when bullying is suspected. When adults are given reason to suspect bullying is taking place, it is imperative to contact school principals, vice principals, and counselors as soon as possible. The sooner the issue is addressed, the less long-term effects bullying will have on their children. Many parents are hesitant to contact school officials. Parents need to know that it is important for them to advocate for their children and that school officials will take their concerns seriously and take action steps.
4. D- Demonstrate the power of the ripple effect by getting involved. October is National Bully Prevention month. Help to educate your community whether it is your neighborhood or your social network community, as to ways to prevent bullying. Wednesday October 10 is Unity Day. “Make it Orange and Make it End” has been established to support bullying prevention throughout the United States. Wear orange to support the cause. Bullying is a national issue that affects everyone. It is time to come together to raise awareness and provide people with tools to prevent bullying. Make up your mind to Choose Kind. Our children will thank you.
Note: According to the National Bullying Center website, “Choose Kind (refers to) the bullying prevention campaign inspired by the book, Wonder, the story of August Pullman, a boy born with a facial difference who attends school for the first time.” For more information on “Choose Kind” and The National Bullying Center go to http://www.pacer.org/bullying/nbpm/.
Laura Goldberg has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development, and a Teaching Credential. She has worked with under served youth and their families as a Child and Family Therapist in the Foster Care System, a Positive Parenting Educator for Burmese refugees, and a Math and ESL Tutor. Utilizing a strength-based approach, she has had the honor to assist many individuals work towards empowerment and increase their quality of life. Read more of Laura Goldberg's inspirational writing at