For the first few months of my son’s fourth-grade year, he suffered from recurrent headaches and stomachaches. This was odd, considering that he has always been a very healthy child. It was even odder that he suffered from these ailments only on school days. It didn’t take me long to suspect that my son was being bullied by his classmates. After a few conversations with him, I discovered I was right.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years, and at least 10% of children are bullied on a regular basis.
What is bullying? Simply put, it’s the intentional, repeated tormenting of another person in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. Bullying can involve name calling, teasing, taunting, spreading rumors, trying to make others reject someone, or cyberbullying (sending cruel instant messages or email messages or posting negative messages about someone on websites).
In my son’s case, two of his classmates were calling him names, taking his school supplies, and in many instances, disrupting the class, picking on other students, and blaming it on him.
While you can’t fight your child’s battles, there are things you can do to address and hopefully stop, bullying. The first and most important thing you can do is pay attention to the warning signs, which may include some or all of the following:
· Child tries to avoid going to school and is often sick (headache, stomachache, etc.)
· Loses interest in hobbies and friends
· Loses appetite
· Overall change in mood; becomes withdrawn
If you notice these signs or any sudden, obvious change in your child’s behavior, address it immediately. And if you find that your child is being bullied, by all means, take it seriously! Bullying can have a long-term, even lifelong, negative effect on your child. Talk to your child’s teachers and administrators and if need be, the bully’s parents.
That’s what I did in my son’s case. After repeated meetings with and letters to teachers and school administrators failed to stop the bullying, I requested a meeting with the bullies’ parents. Turns out, school officials had not made the parents aware of their children’s behavior. After our conversation, they addressed the issue with their children. Thanks to their cooperation and quick response, my son and his classmates now enjoy a bully-free classroom experience.