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Each day, we send our kids off to school with high hopes for their educational and social development. We expect our children to thrive in the school environment, but school is not always the safe, happy place we hope it will be. Instead, it can be a place where bullies lurk and threaten to undermine the very confidence and joy we hope to instill in our kids.

What is Bullying?

We’ve all been teased and, in all likelihood, have probably teased others—but bullying takes teasing to the next level. Bullying is intentional, repetitive, hurtful behavior that crosses the line from teasing into tormenting.

Bullying can take the form of many behaviors:

  • Verbal bullying may involve name-calling, taunting, teasing, and more.
  • Psychological bullying involves spreading rumors, shunning, threatening, and more.
  • Physical bullying may involve pushing, tripping, hitting, or even sexual assault.
  • Cyberbullying involves using email, text messaging, chat rooms, and social networking to torment individuals.

Bullying typically occurs as a result of appearance and social status. Bullies are usually kids who have more power, either physically or socially. Bullies pick on kids who they think don’t fit in—for example, as a result of race, religion, sexual orientation, or simply because of how a child looks or behaves. Children with disabilities are at a higher risk of being bullied than other kids.

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The Bully Epidemic

Bullying has always been a part of schoolyard antics, but it’s finally being recognized as the serious problem that it is. Many school districts have launched anti-bully campaigns and programs and students and teachers are taught to recognize and report bullying. Despite this awareness, the problem persists.

The most painful aspect of bullying is that it is relentless. It places victims in a constant state of fear. Bullying can lead to serious physical and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and more. In serious cases, it can even lead to suicide. Bullying can leave deep and lasting emotional scars.

What You Can Do as a Parent

Because bullying is so prevalent, it’s important to understand and recognize the behavior and teach your child about bullying. Even if you don’t suspect bullying, it’s important to discuss the topic with your child so that he/she can be prepared if it ever does happen.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Talk to your child about bullying. Teach them that it’s not okay to bully or be bullied. Create a sense of trust so that they will feel comfortable confiding in you if bullying ever occurs.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of bullying so you can intervene if your child becomes a victim.
  • Empower your child and teach him/her strategies for coping with bullies.
  • If you suspect that your child is the bully, help him/her to change the behavior.
  • Get help. If your child has been a victim of bullying, seek immediate help to cope with the day-to-day problem, as well as counseling to address the long-term emotional impact of bullying.