By MELISSA MULLER
Do you have a child who has been or is being bullied? Bullying is a very real epidemic in our society. Studies show that up to half of children are bullied at some point during their school years and more than 10% are bullied over long periods of time.Â On any given day approximately 160,000 students skip school to avoid being bullied.Â That is a substantial amount of our kids who are waking up every day afraid to attend school!Â Bullies will pick on people for looking different, for being weaker, or for acting differently. Kids who are overweight, of a minority race, disabled, or have come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered or are perceived to be so have a higher probability of being picked on. Â Â Bullying involves unprovoked efforts to harm another individual.Â Bullying is repeated negative actions by an individual or a group of individuals against another individual. There are four types of bullying:Â Physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, and punching), verbal (making fun of, taunting, teasing), social (excluding from events, spreading rumors), and cyberbullying (bullying that takes place over electronics such as phones and computers). Although all forms of bullying are harmful cyber bullying has the potential to be unrelenting as it can be done anonymously and 24/7.Â Bullies may subject their victims to one or all types of bullying. Some bullies bully because they feel entitled to pick on others.Â They believe they have the right to mistreat people.Â Other bullies are insecure and bullying helps them gain power and become more interesting.Â Some who bully have actually been the victim of bullying either in their homes or in other situations.Â Unfortunately, the effects of bullying can be long standing.Â Research indicates victims of bullying are at risk for mental health problems including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Common feelings bullying victims experience include shame, unhappiness, and fear.Â Even in adulthood some victims of bullying are still affected by the bullying they experienced as children. Sadly, the two students who were responsible for the Columbine massacre had been long standing victims of bullying. Hannah Smith was a teen who hung herself after being relentlessly bullied. Tragically, there are many stories in the media of our children who have committed suicide as a result of being bullied. What can you do if you have a child who is being bullied? 1.Â Â Â Â Â Talk to your children. There are many kids who wonâ€™t tell anyone about the bullying and will suffer in silence. Ask questions and be aware of your childâ€™s feelings. Â Listen to your child. 2.Â Â Â Â Â Help your child to identify a positive support system in family, neighbors, and teachers who understand and care. 3.Â Â Â Â Â Help the child to learn to remain calm, stand tall, look the bully in the eye, and walk away.Â 4.Â Â Â Â Â Â Help the child to hold in their anger and to not get physical with the bully.Â This may cause further problems for the victim. 5.Â Â Â Â Â Be an advocate for your child. Silence allows the bullying to continue and to become more violent. Let the school know what is happening with your child even if your child doesnâ€™t want you to.Â 6.Â Â Â Â Â Help the child identify true friends and endorse those friendships. 7.Â Â Â Â Â Being the victim of bullying makes people feel helpless. Teach the child assertiveness skills so he or she will appear more confident to the bullies. 8.Â Â Â Â Â Â If the child appears withdrawn, sad, fearful, and is avoiding school it is time to seek professional help. Counseling will help the child to mitigate the effects of bullying.
Melissa Muller is a local Licensed Mental Health Counselor