There’s this common misconception that we’ve been fed growing up that involves bullying. This idea that bullying is acceptable child behavior and gives children a thick skin has been proven false when these children’s mental health is analyzed well into adulthood.
It’s easier for parents to chalk it up to kids being kids but there are long last effects to being bullied as an adolescent, as well as being the aggressor. It’s time to stop ignoring this serious issue and take a step forward in protecting our children.
Bullying is described as repeated abusive behavior with the intent of hurt. Bullying can include violence, verbal taunting, emotional abuse, racial bullying, hazing, and more recently, cyberbullying.There’s always a power imbalance whether it’s size or status and boys are more likely to be bullied physically.
Mental Health Effects of Bullying
The National Institute of Mental Health helped fund a study in 2013 and found that bully victims are four times more likely to have agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic attacks in adulthood. The bullies grow up to be four times more likely to develop antisocial personality disorders into adulthood.
The worst that have the worst complications are those who bully as a means to cope with being bullied themselves. They feel weak from their aggressors so they turn to those weaker than themselves to gain the power dynamic back. They are fourteen times more likely to develop panic disorders. They’re ten times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors once adults and at a five times higher risk for depressive disorders.
Of course, there are other factors to consider such as having mental illness before bullying starts and genetic predisposition to mental illness. Still, there results are pretty worrying.
Signs Your Child is Being Bullied
- They may acquire injuries that they won’t account for such as cuts and bruises.
- You may find them faking illness to skip school.
- Their grades may start declining.
- Their eating habits may change to binge eating or scarcely eating at all.
- They may have difficulties sleeping or may be sleeping too much. Nightmare manifestation has been known to start in extreme cases.
- There may be a change in friends or a lack of friends.
- They can begin to withdraw and start showing intense emotional reactions to small upsets.
- They may have constant stress induced headaches and stomachaches.
- They may begin to bully others weaker than them, such as younger siblings.
- In more extreme cases, they may start to self-harm or begin to have self-destructive behavior.
If you believe your child is being bullied, you should start an open communication with them. Ask them questions about their day, ask them about their friends, and be straight forward and ask if they are being bullied. If they open up to you, listen to them and don’t down play their feelings. There’s nothing worse than being made to feel invalidated about how they feel. It may not be a big deal to you but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.
Not all children will feel comfortable being honest about their situation. It’s easy and very common for a child to feel shame or guilt about bullying. When talking to your child, pay attention to their body language. Slouching and avoiding eye contact are big signals that there’s something they are suppressing.
Teaching your child assertiveness (not aggressiveness) gives them the confidence to stand up to his or her bully. The best way to do this is to integrate assertiveness in your everyday life. Children mimic parents and learn behaviors from observing.
Go through scenarios with your child teaching them how to react and what to say. With more confidence your child will eventually be able to confront the bully in a respectful manner and without an emotional reaction that many bullies tend to thrive on.
More often than not, depending on age, confronting the bully with aggression or their parents never solve anything. This can escalate a situation and no parents wants to be attacked about their child being aggressive or cruel. If you feel the need to speak to the parents, speak calmly and explain the situation.
Signs Your Child is a Bully
- They are in trouble at school frequently for physical altercations.
- They have a very aggressive personality.
- They are often worried about their popularity at school and how to maintain it.
Just as you would if your child was the bullied one, participate in open dialogue. Ask your child why they are doing it and how they feel. There should be consequences, of course, but be creative. For instance, if they cyberbully, ground them from electronics. Make sure they apologize to the person they hurt.
Don’t stand idly by if bullying is a consistent problem for your child. The repercussions can last into adulthood and it’s best to act fast before the situation escalates. No one wants their child to be hurting, emotionally or physically. Let’s help stop bullying in its tracks.