School’s Back in Session, and so is Bullying

With schools back in session, parents have a lot to worry about. Topics such as safety at school and school bus safety come to mind at back to school time. But for many parents, one topic may not be top of mind at all. For others, such as the mother of Jaheem Herrera, this same topic might be fraught with meaning. That topic is bullying.

If you followed Atlanta news earlier this you, you will recall the tragic story of Jaheem Herrera, an 11-year-old child who reportedly hung himself after being subjected to bullying in his DeKalb County school. Herrera’s mother later appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about the ordeal.

Fortunately, most cases of bullying in schools do not end in such terrible tragedy. Nonetheless, bullying can take an extreme emotional and even physical toll on a child. Not to mention, bullying can disrupt a child’s learning during the school day.

The website Bullying.org is a wonderful resource for parents who are concerned about bullying. The site publishes several warning signs to watch out for when you suspect that your child is being bullied, including:

• Unexplained injuries
• Damages to clothes or belongings
• Fear of attending school, including crying before or after school
• Difficulty sleeping
• Sickness or frequent complaints of sickness to avoid school
• Lack of appetite or weight loss
• Bed wetting
• Depression and anxiety
• Bad grades or incomplete school work
• Having few friends or exhibiting anti-social behavior
• Refusal to reveal the problem

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are many things you can do. Here are a few of the most important ones:

1.) Realize for yourself and explain to your child that bullying is not a normal part of childhood. What the bullies are doing is wrong. Children can find bullying embarrassing, scary and hurtful. Make sure they know that it is the bully, not the bullied, who are at fault.

2.) Write down what happened, or encourage your child to write it down. Not only will this provide a powerful report for the school’s administration and other involved parents, it may be therapeutic for your child.

3.) Report bullying behavior to your child’s teacher, school administrators and guidance counselors. Be an advocate for your child until the school listens.

4.) Instill confidence in your child. Explain to children that you know bullying can be scary, but that if they can even “fake” bravery, they can often stop the bully from perpetuating his or her behavior.

5.) Teach your child nonviolent ways to deal with bullies. This can include simply walking away, playing with friends, or talking it out.

6.) Involve your child in activities outside of school. This will allow him or her to make friends outside of the school environment. If your child is having trouble adjusting at school, learning that he or she does have the social skills to make friends in new places may go a long way to instilling the confidence he or she needs to deal with bullies at school.

Bullying is not a normal part of growing up and should never be written off as acceptable behavior. If you feel that your child is being bullied, be there to love and support them until the problem is resolved.