Studies show that between 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency. Bullying can have long-lasting effects.  Youth who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development.  Bullying can cause your child to experience fear, depression, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, physical illness, and in some cases suicidal thoughts.  Additional consequences include: increase in missing more school because of excused and unexcused absences, higher risk for running away from home, and increase problems with alcohol and drug use.

Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of appearance and social status. Bullies pick on the people they think don’t fit in, maybe because of how they look, how they act (for example, kids who are shy and withdrawn), their race or religion.  Bullying behavior can be physical or verbal. Boys tend to use physical intimidation or threats, regardless of the gender of their victims. Bullying by girls is more often verbal, usually with another girl as the target.  Bullying is even reported in online chat rooms and through e-mail.  Children targeted by bullies also tend to fit a particular profile.  Bullies often choose children who are passive, easily intimidated, or have few friends.  Victims may also be smaller or younger, and have a harder time defending themselves.

One of the most painful aspects of bullying is that it is relentless. Most people can take one episode of teasing or name calling or being shunned at the mall.  However, when it goes on and on, bullying can put a person in a state of constant fear.  Unfortunately victims are often reluctant to talk about bullying, because they’re afraid of appearing weak in their parents’ eyes.  It important for parents to keep a close eye out for sudden changes in their child’s behavior.  These signs include withdrawal, a sudden drop in grades, a reluctance to go to school, staying away from kids who were formerly friends, self-deprecating talk, frequent complaints of headaches or stomach aches, crying episodes and unexplained bruises.

Children and adolescents who bully thrive on controlling or dominating others.  They have often been the victims of physical abuse or bullying themselves.  Bullies may also be depressed, angry or upset about events at school or at home.

If you feel your child is being bullied it is important to stay calm and get involved as soon as possible.

Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal difficulties..  Listen to your teen, don’t blame them, gather as much information as you can, empathize with their feelings, don’t criticize if you disagree with how your child handled it.  Talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor, school officials or if necessary law enforcement.

About Steven Petrus

Dr. Steven Petrus is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in psycho-educational assessment, child, adolescent and family therapy.
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