Sherri M. Gordon

How to Help Your Child Cope with Bullying

Thursday October 31, 2013

By now, your kids have probably adjusted to school. They are out of the summer routine and have fallen into their school routine. And hopefully, it has been a smooth transition this school year.

Unfortunately though, for some parents and their children the transition has been anything but smooth. Instead, their kids have faced the challenges of being bullied. And for them, these few short months of school have felt like years instead.

In fact, already this school year, we have seen a number of tragedies related to bullying. For instance, in September a 15-year-old Connecticut boy shot and killed himself after years of bullying. And in May a 12-year-old New York girl hanged herself mentioning cyberbullying in her note. Not only are situations like these heartbreaking, but they also are scary for parents whose children are being bullied.

If your child is being bullied, it's normal to worry that your child might attempt something so drastic in order to escape the pain. And while no one can predict what another will do, you can take steps to help your child.

Aside from reporting the bullying and working with the school to keep your child safe, you need to take steps to help your child heal. The first step in the healing process is getting their child screened for depression by a pediatrician or other medical professional. In fact, depression, bullying and suicide are all intricately related. And, because bullying is so traumatic, it's important to address the emotional trauma associated with bullying.

The second step is to get your child outside help if needed. And the third step is to keep the lines of communication open. What you say to your child immediately after a bullying incident and during the healing process has a significant impact on your child's healing. So be sure you are empowering and encouraging your child. Help her focus on her goals and not on the bullying she experienced.

Likewise, parents also should take steps to prevent future bullying incidents. This involves everything from building self-esteem and resiliency, to teaching assertiveness, social skills and perseverance. Parents also should talk to their kids about things victims should never do and help them identify bullying hot spots.

Lastly, parents should be extremely careful not to make some of the most common mistakes parents make like ignoring the bullying, dramatizing it or gossiping about it. Instead, your focus should be helping your child heal and overcome the incident. And make sure you take steps to prevent future incidents.

For more ideas on what you can do to help your child, check out 8 Skills Kids Need to Avoid Bullies and 9 Ways Kids Can Defend Themselves Against Bullies.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Bullying in Sports Is a Growing Problem

Monday October 28, 2013

As the school's fall sports season comes to a close and the winter sports season begins, I thought I would take a moment to talk about an often-overlooked aspect of bullying - bullying in sports. With so much emphasis on team-building and the benefits of participating in sports, it often comes as a surprise to most people that bullying in sports even exists. But it does.

When someone mentions bullying and sports in the same sentence, most people visualize a clique of football players who stick together and bully others in school. But this type of bullying is only a small percentage of the bullying in sports problem. In fact, bullying takes place inside the locker room just as much as outside of it.

There are a variety of types of bullying that kids on sports teams may experience. For instance, some teams have hazing rituals where they "initiate" the newer, younger members. Meanwhile, some athletes will bully other members of their own team. These bullies might try to intimidate or ostracize the team's best player or they might single out the weakest or smallest player on the team and engage in name-calling or other put downs. The reasons that bullies target others vary. But it is clear, that it's a growing area of concern for schools.

The best way for coaches to address bullying in sports is to develop a sports bullying prevention program upfront, prior to the start of the season. This program should include team-building ideas and methods for empowering young athletes to stand up to bullying. It also should contain a component that clearly outlines what the school and the coach expect from the players. Lastly, it should contain a component that addresses why bystanders on the team might remain silent.

Fortunately for me, my daughter has not been a victim of bullying while participating in sports. And, I have not witnessed any sports bullying personally. But I have heard others talking about bullying issues in all types of sports at my daughter's school and it troubles me.

Participating in sports is so important to a young person's health and development. It's also a great avenue for building self-esteem, perseverance and resiliency. And, empowering athletes to stand up to school bullying can be extremely effective. But when parents, coaches and schools aren't addressing the possibility of bullying upfront and cultivating an attitude of respect on the team, then problems will arise.

Athletes are competitive by nature. They know how to persevere and they want to win. And these are great qualities. But young athletes can take things too far if they are not mentored by adults who stress treating others well.

If your child has plans to join a sports team this season, be proactive when it comes to bullying. For instance, organize a team bonding party at your house or a local establishment. This is a fun way for the team members to get acquainted and build a relationship. Kids are less likely to bully one another if they have developed a friendship.

For more ideas on how to address bullying in sports, check out 6 Mistakes Coaches Make About Bullying, 8 Ways Parents Can Address Bullying in Sports, 4 Reasons Why Empowering Athletes Can Prevent School Bullying and 8 Ways to Empower Athletes to Prevent Bullying.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

From One Mom to Another – How to View Bullies

Tuesday October 22, 2013

I have been involved in bullying prevention for a while now. And I love helping other people navigate the complicated situation of bullying. But, I have always been bothered by the small percentage of parents who get caught up in the idea of bullying without knowing what it is. What I mean by this is, they are not able to distinguish between normal conflict and bullying nor can they tell the difference between bullying and unkind behavior.

And while no child should ever be subjected to another child's mean behavior, it's very important that you call a situation what it is. Are the kids being mean, or are they bullying? Both situations need to be dealt with, but it's important to distinguish between mean behavior and bullying. When parents label every mean thing bullying, the issue of bullying becomes diluted and the serious issues can get buried or overlooked.

Yes, kids can be unkind and yes kids will disagree. But not every negative and uncomfortable thing a child experiences is bullying. For a situation to be considered bullying, three components must exist.

First, there has to be a power imbalance. In other words, one child is more powerful in some way. For instance, there is a power imbalance when one child is bigger, stronger or more popular. Second, the action must be repeated. A one-time incident is not bullying. Bullying is a pattern of behavior that is repeated over time. And third, the action is intentional. A bully always intends to hurt another person either emotionally or physically.

Also, it's important for parents to remember that these are kids they are dealing with. My heart breaks to hear another parent talking badly about a child, even a bully. Remember, kids are still growing and learning. And they make mistakes. Sometimes their mistakes include bullying another child. And while they should definitely be held accountable for bullying behavior, I don't feel they should be the subject of gossip and rumors.

Keep in mind, kids change. Even the child who bullied your child yesterday could behave differently today. What's more, some kids are bully-victims. What this means is that while they may bully others, they also are on the receiving end of bullying. And while this doesn't make their behavior acceptable, the picture is often more complicated than you realize.

So please don't label a child a bully for the rest of his life. Allow room in your heart for him to mature and to change. Keep an open mind. And please speak as respectfully about another person's child as you expect them to speak about your child. Just because a child bullied your child does not give you a license to say anything you want. You still must model respect for your child.

For more ideas on how to view kids who bully, check out 4 Things Parents Should Remember About Bullies.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Talk About Bullying and Help Your Child Find His “Inner Giant”

Saturday October 12, 2013

Did you know that research shows that remarkable things happen when parents spend just 15 minutes a day listening and talking with their children? In fact, researchers have found that despite a child's comments and facial expressions, kids really do look to their parents for advice and help with difficult situations and choices.

Not surprisingly then, the most important thing parents can do to prevent bullying is to have a conversation with their children. For instance, talk to your kids about what types of bullying they are seeing at school. And then empower them to be effective bystanders. Discuss ideas on what they can do if they witness bullying. And most importantly, build their self-esteem, resiliency, assertiveness and their social skills so that they don't become targets of bullying themselves.

But if you are like most parents, you struggle with knowing how to do that. Because let's face it, getting kids to open up about bullying is often easier said than done. In fact, research shows that most victims of bullying never tell anyone what they are experiencing. Even bystanders to bullying often keep quiet about what they see.

For this reason, PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center has joined forces with Green Giant to give parents an avenue for starting a conversation about bullying. Their campaign, called Raise A Giant, encourages parents to take a proactive role in bullying prevention.

According to Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's bullying prevention center, the campaign involves inviting parents to write an open letter to their children about bullying on the Raise A Giant website.

"One child can make a big difference in a school," says Hertzog. "The hope is that the letter writing will not only open up those valuable face-to-face conversations between parents and kids, but it also will inspire them to think about bullying in a different way."

According to Hertzog, kids often don't know what to do when they are confronted by bullying, but if parents empower them to find their "inner giant," they often will. But it all starts with a conversation. To get started on your letter writing, be sure to visit Raise A Giant.

And if you need more ideas on how to start a conversation with your child about bullying, check out 6 Ways to Start a Conversation About Bullying. Remember, when it comes to bullying prevention, we all play a role in preventing it. So don't miss your opportunity to talk about bullying.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Cyberbullying Should Never Be Ignored

Tuesday October 1, 2013

I have a friend who has to be the most diligent person I know when it comes to keeping up with the kids and their social media use. Not a day goes by that she isn't filling me in on the latest things kids are saying or doing online. And when Instagram came out with the Vine app, she was the first to see it. Then when kids starting using Ask.fm she was right there checking it out. She's becoming the neighborhood watchdog all on her own.

And with so many kids abusing social media and cyberbullying one another, this kind of diligence is essential. I just wish we could clone her because not all parents keep up with their kids' online lives. This is unfortunate because cyberbullying is becoming a huge issue.

Not a day goes by that I don't hear of another young person that took their life because of cyberbullying or online gossip and rumors. In those cases, I often finding myself wishing that I could have done something to prevent another senseless tragedy.

If your child is being tormented by cyberbullies, I encourage you to get involved quickly. Be sure to coach your child on how to respond to cyberbullying, instruct her on how to deal with online gossip and help her overcome the effects of cyberbullying. Also, don't be afraid to get outside help for your child if needed.

Too many people assume they can handle the situation on their own, while others are worried about the stigmas associated with counseling. But I urge you to find your child a counselor, especially if she is acting depressed. Other red flags include a change in personal hygiene, thoughts of suicide and a change in eating habits.

Never ever worry about what others will think. Your top priority should always be about getting your child the help she needs before it's too late. Cyberbullying is too dangerous of an issue and the consequences are much to steep for it to be ignored.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Teaching Respect Is Key to Bullying Prevention

Monday September 30, 2013

Last week, I spent a good part of my day selling t-shirts for Volley for the Cure at my daughter's junior high. It was an interesting experience. I enjoyed observing the kids' interactions in the most social part of their school day.

It was also very educational to watch kids in a setting that is often riddled with various forms of bullying. Although I didn't see any physical bullying in my entire three hours there, I did see plenty of relational aggression and other subtle forms of bullying. Not only were girls giving one another mean looks and dishing out a few barbs, but boys were engaging in a few stare-downs too.

I also was amazed by the size difference at this age. Some of the boys were the size of full-grown men while other boys looked like they could still pass for a middle school student. As someone who works regularly to prevent bullying, I can see why the battle we fight is an uphill one.

But I think what struck me the most was the difference in the levels of respect the students had for one another and for the adults who were working in the area. For instance, there were some students that were very polite when asking to use the restroom while others spoke to the adults (and other students) with a tone dripping with attitude and lack of respect. And it occurred to me how crucial respect is in preventing bullying.

In fact, respect is at the root of bullying prevention. If children are taught to be respectful to others, and if they truly are respectful in actions and words, then it is highly unlikely they will bully other people. Because really, bullying is about a lack of respect for another human being. Bullies have no respect for other people. If they did, they would not target them. Instead, regardless of the motivation behind the bullying, bullies often feel entitled to treat people the way they do.

So this month, I decided to focus on a few key elements to bullying prevention including teaching respect and developing social skills. Check out 5 Ways to Teach Respect and Prevent Bullying and 7 Ways to Build Social Skills and Prevent Bullying. You also might find 9 Ways Kids Can Defend Themselves Against Bullies, 9 Strategies for Bully-Proofing Your Middle School Son and How to Bully-Proof Your Middle School Daugther useful as well.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Junior High Filled With Bullying Challenges

Saturday August 31, 2013

It's hard to believe that today marks the second full week of school for my kids. In fact, the first day of school seems forever ago. And the pit of anxiety that was lodged in my stomach is just a distant memory.

There were so many concerns running through my head as I dropped my daughter off at the front door of the junior high that day.

Who will she sit with at lunch? Will she be bullied? What about mean girls and fake friends? Will she know how to spot them? How to avoid them? Will she exposed to peer pressure, bullying and cyberbullying?

Junior high in our community (or possibly middle school in your community) is the most trying time for kids when it comes to bullying. These tweens and teens are growing up quickly. Their bodies are changing and peer relationships are becoming more important. But along with all these changes, kids often cope in the wrong ways. Some might choose to bully or resort to mean behavior in order to cope with the stress of growing up, to fit in or even to climb the social ladder.

And as a parent, it can be exasperating to try to keep up. For this reason, I thought it might be helpful to provide my readers with a few resources to keep on hand. That way, if your child experiences bullying, peer pressure or mean girl behavior, you have something to refer to. Here are my top suggestions for the month:

Coping with Bullying

Consequences of Bullying

Tips for Parents

For additional articles and resources, visit Bullying on About.com.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Educators Should Prevent Toxic and Damaging Social Environments

Saturday August 31, 2013

There was an interesting article in Education Week at the beginning of this month. In it, the author, Mariam Azin, challenges educators to ask themselves if they are doing everything possible "to prevent toxic and damaging social environments" that lead to severe consequences from bullying like suicide and other self-harming behaviors.

I agree with everything Azin says. While the first priority for helping kids who are bullied often lies with parents, educators are not without responsibility. In fact, many states have changed laws regarding bullying to emphasize the important role teachers and administrators play.

After all, teachers, coaches and other school employees are often with kids for more of their waking hours than parents are. And they have the unique advantage of being able to observe kids together at school in ways parents never can, says Azin.

As a result, schools are tasked not only with responsibility to help students learn, but also to keep them safe. And to accomplish this, there are a number of practical things they can do to prevent bullying. The first of which is to take action when bullying is reported.

So many times bullying is dismissed or brushed aside as a "rite of passage." But research has shown that it is anything but natural. In fact, bullying impacts kids well into adulthood. What's more, not addressing bullying as soon as it occurs allows the bullying climate within a school to escalate. Bullies and victims alike begin to assume that no one cares and no one will put an end to it. So it feeds on itself and grows until the entire academic environment is tainted and learning becomes a challenge for all students, including bystanders.

So this school year, I come alongside Azin and challenge educators to review their bullying policies. I encourage them to really think about whether or not they are really doing all they can "to prevent toxic and damaging social environments."

Here are some practical ideas on how teachers and administrators can strive to make their schools bully-free.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Consequences of Bullying Lingering and Far-Reaching

Wednesday July 31, 2013

In late June, I read yet another article where Demi Lovato bravely gives readers an inside look into the consequences of bullying. In the article, she explains that even now as a successful 20-something adult, she has nightmares about the bullying she endured in her teen years.

She explains that she can remember word-for-word what the bullies and mean girls said to her. What's more, these taunts and torments still haunt her causing her nightmares at times. But instead of allowing the bullying to define her, Lovato is fighting back with programs that help others in similar situations.

In addition to being a spokesperson for Secret's Mean Stinks campaign, she also is partnering with CAST Recovery to create the Lovato Treatment Scholarship Program in honor of her father, Patrick Lovato. The scholarship will cover expenses for someone struggling with mental health and/or addiction issues. It also will include costs for one of CAST Recovery's transitional living homes as well as clinical services provided by their outpatient program.

Lovato should be commended for taking steps to help others through these challenges. As a country, we need more people willing to step up and help kids who are being bullied. Research has demonstrated that the consequences from bullying are lingering and far-reaching. Even parents are impacted emotionally by bullying. And, several studies show that the effects of bullying can even affect the adult mind later in life. If we want the next generation of adults to be healthy and productive, we need to take steps now to prevent bullying, to intervene in bullying situations and to address the consequences kids are experiencing.

For more information on the consequences of bullying, check out these articles:

Effects of Bullying

Bullying's Connection to Disorders

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

Back-to-School Bullying Prevention Ideas

Wednesday July 31, 2013

Today, we went shopping for school supplies. Having just returned from a Disney vacation two weeks ago, it is a little hard to fathom that it is time to start thinking about back-to-school already. But it is. In just a few days, it will be August 1 and we will all be in full back-to-school mode.

In honor of the back-to-school season, I would like to take this time to encourage you to start thinking about bullying prevention this school year. In fact, 28% of students aged 12 to 18 were bullied at school during the 2009 school year. And many predict this number is growing.

Moreover, bullying is a complex problem that often leaves kids feeling alone, ashamed and depressed. They also are more likely to experience headaches, stomachaches, eating disorders, sleep problems and anxiety issues.

And yet, we can all do something to put an end to it. Whether you are a parent, a guidance counselor or a teacher, there are a number of things you can do not only to help prevent bullying and cyberbullying, but also to help victims of bullying.

Take a look at these resources for ideas on preventing bullying and for assisting victims of bullying. With your help, bullying at your child's school can diminish significantly.

Bullying Prevention

Victims of Bullying

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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