by Dr. Jennifer Caudle, Family Physician
Over the years I have spoken with over 50,000 children, parents and youth about Bullying. This is a topic that I am not only passionate about, but dedicated to helping prevent. In this issue of The Physicians Blog, I wanted to honor “Bullying Prevention Month” (October) by answering your most commonly asked questions about bullying:
1) What are the warning signs that would let me know that my child is bullied?
The following situations should prompt you to ask questions about what your child might be experiencing:
- If your child has changes in habits, including eating habits (skipping meals), sleeping habits (problems sleeping), or activities (decreased interest in activities)
- If you notice injuries that cannot be explained
- If your child has frequent health issues such as headaches, stomach aches, and generally not feeling well
- If your child has experienced achange in grades (decline), not wanting to go to school or skipping school
- If he/she has had a change in friendships or avoidance of certain social situations
- If there is decreased self esteem
- If your child exhibits sadness or talks about suicide
Any of the above are signs that your child might be involved in bullying behaviors. If any of them occur you should talk with your child. At times (such as in the case of suicide, etc), you should discuss these symptoms with your child and their health care provider as soon as possible.
2) How do I talk with my child about being bullied? Especially if they feel threatened or scared to talk- How do I break the silence? And, what are some tools to help them?
The following are tips to help you talk with your children about bullying and help them:
- Ask specific and open-ended questions
- Find out what is happening to your child by showing interest
- Understand that your child may feel fear or shame about the situation
- Talk with your child’s school officials- including bus drivers, school counselors, teachers and administrator
- Encourage your child to get involved in activities they might enjoy- this can actually be protective for children who are bullied. Encourage your child to spend time with others who have similar interests.
- Role play solutions at home
- Educate your child about bullying and cyberbullying and monitor online behaviors by following your kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
- Model good behaviors at home
- Discuss your child’s feelings and experiences with your child’s physician
3) Is it bullying, or just kids being kids? When will I know that it is bullying and when should I intervene?
Bullying behaviors should ALWAYS be intervened!
The definition of bullying is:
- Behaviors intended to hurt or harm someone
- There is a perceived imbalance of power between the parties involved
- The behavior is repetitive
Research has shown us that children who are bullied or who are bullies often have long-lasting consequences that may be psychological (increased risk of depression and anxiety), behavioral (problems with violence or substance use) or include other health consequences such as headaches, stomach pains, fatigue, etc. Bullying is a health problem that can affect many aspects of a child’s health and intervening should always be a priority!
Dr. Jennifer Caudle is a board-certified Family Physician. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Jen is the author of “Bullying Among Today’s Youth: The Important Role of the Primary Care Provider” http://www.osteopathicfamilyphysician.org/article/S1877-573X%2813%2900041-5/abstract.
Dr. Jen serves as an on-air health expert for local and national news networks including CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, FOX News, CBS Philly 3 News, The Tom Joyner Morning Show and many others. She is also the creator of The Physicians Blog. Follow her on twitter @drjencaudle and visit her at www.jennifercaudle.com.
Information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical consultation or serve as a substitute for medical advice provided by a physician or qualified medical professional.