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There has been a lot of discussion related to bullying in the media recently. Bullying is not a new trend, but as the stigma of mental illness is decreased, more and more people are opening up about being bullied and the effects it has on them – some of these effects can be life-long. Bullying interferes with social development and self esteem. It causes increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. There is an enormous amount of research backing up the ill-effects bullying has on children, adolescents and even adults.
What can a parent do about bullying? Teach your children about bullying. Teach them what bullying is. Teach them how to be safe and how to appropriately stand up for themselves. Keep the lines of communication open with your children. Let them know you are a safe person to talk to about bullying. Check in with them; listen to them; listen to their concerns. Ask questions and be interested in what is happening at school and with their friends.
What if someone I know is being bullied? Help them learn to stand up for themselves appropriately and get the proper support from adults. Telling an adult that you or someone you know is being bullied is not being a “tattle tale” or a “rat.” Telling someone who has authority and can help brings the problem to light. A problem cannot be solved if it is unknown. Furthermore, it gives the opportunity for the person being bullied to get help and not spiral into depression or suicide. Be supportive to that friend, but not in a secretive way – don’t hold the secret that they are being bullied. Secrets are dangerous. (By the way, keep this in mind; secrets are dangerous. I will talk about keeping secrets in another blog post).