What to do if your child is victim of bullying

Bullying can happen for a number of reasons. However, research indicates that weight is more important than gender, race, and socioeconomic status in predicting who will be the target of bullying among third- to sixth-graders. In addition, obese preteens are more likely to be bullied than their normal weight peers.

Bullying is intentionally tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and treasured possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use email, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites, and text messages to taunt others or hurt their feelings.

With the development in technology and easy accessibility, it’s no wonder cyber bullying has increased dramatically. Dayton Children’s Dr. Gregory Ramey says, “We can’t shelter our children from this cyber world, but we do need to be more active in making sure we protect our kids in that world as much as possible.”

It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and future relationships. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as school shootings.

Many kids feel like it’s their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told an adult, the bullying will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won’t believe them or do anything about it, and some kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they’re scared to.

If a child approaches a parent, teacher, or school administrator about being a victim of bullying, they should praise the child for being brave enough to talk about it. Remind the child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not them. Reassure the child that you will figure out what to do about it together.

At home you can lessen the impact of the bullying. Encourage your kids to get together with friends that help build their confidence. Help them meet other kids by joining clubs or sports programs, and find activities that can help a child feel confident and strong. This could include a self-defense class like karate or a movement or other gym class. Remember, as upsetting as bullying can be for you and your family, lots of people and resources are available to help.

This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: newsroom@childrensdayton.org.

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