Back-to-school: Beware of bullying



The transition from summer to school is often challenging for kids, but it can be even further magnified by a fear of bullies. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every seven seconds in the U.S. a child is bullied. With cell phones and social media applications becoming so widespread, bullying now extends beyond just the school playground, as these new technologies are making it easier for bullies to target others.  It is important for parents to understand how prevalent and sensitive bullying is in order to have impactful discussions with their children. 

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived difference in power. This behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. All forms of bullying can lead to physical illness, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Parents can approach the discussion of bullying by asking their child these three questions: 

  • Do you ever see kids picking on other kids?
  • Do kids ever pick on you?
  • Do you ever pick on kids? (And tell the truth; you’re not in trouble.)

Depending on how your child responds to these questions, you can gauge the proper conversation to follow. A child can be the victim, the bully or a bystander. Each plays a different role, so here are some strategies to guide that discussion with your child. 

If your child is bullied, it is important to teach them to respond by speaking firmly and confidently. Use phrases such as, “I don’t like what you are doing,” “Please do not talk to me like that,” and “Why would you say that?” Rehearsing what they should say in the situation can be beneficial. Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help and encourage them to make friends with other kids.  Your child may also benefit from talking to their pediatrician who can decide if they have any mental health concerns as a result of being bullied. Your pediatrician may refer your child to a mental health provider for further evaluation and treatment.

If your child is bullying others, strict rules need to be established. Be sure your child knows that bullying is never tolerated. Set firm limits on their aggressive behavior and develop practical solutions with their teachers, as well as the parents of the bullied child. Bullies should receive counseling to address this issue as they sometimes suffer from depression or need assistance with social skills. 

If your child is a bystander to a bullying situation, encourage them to tell a trusted adult about the bullying and also tell the bully to stop. Kids should know that their words matter and that they have the power to help resolve the situation. 

A parent’s discipline and love is critical when dealing with the sensitive subject of bullying. Though it might seem easier to ignore the problem, initiating these conversations with your child will ensure that your child feels safe and empowered to make wise decisions.