Whether your child is exposed to bullying during their time in school is not a matter of if, but when. And in these times, your child needs your support.
Nicholas Evangelidis, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Manhattan’s Via Christi Behavioral Health Clinic on Sunset Avenue, says that the first step to getting a bully situation under control is getting everyone involved.
“If your child is talking about being bullied at school, listen and follow through by contacting their teachers or school counselor,” Evangelidis says. “This shows your child that you care. Communicating with the school can help the parent get a better understanding of the situation.”
However, even when they leave school, a child may not be able to escape a bully. With technology, bullying can continue 24 hours a day through social media or text messages and be almost invisible to a parent.
“It is a different time when it comes to bullying,” Evangelidis explains. “Kids are surrounded by social media. It’s something that even on the weekend or during a vacation they can still receive a text or Facebook message and see a mean comment. They can’t get away from it.”
Often, a child can be affected by a bully, even if they aren’t the one being tormented. Witnessing others being bullied can have a negative effect on a child’s mood, concentration and make them feel threatened, Evangelidis explains.
“The feeling of safety is a critical part of being able to learn,” he says. “If they are worried about a peer or friend being bullied, this can add a significant amount of stress to their day.”
Sometimes a child may be a bully themselves, which could be the result of a number of things, including not understanding that their actions or words are hurting others.
“It is important for kids who are bullying to realize that their actions affect other people – whether it’s at home or school,” Evangelidis says.
Children base their actions on the adult role models in their life, so setting a good example at home is vital when it comes to teaching your child how to deal with a bully.
“How much support and love we give to our children can influence how they act outside the home and provide a foundation for positive peer relationships,” Evangelidis says.
In the end, work on having your child not let their mood be determined by a negative peer, which can be difficult, Evangelidis admits, but is very important.
“It is a gradual process, but working on building self-esteem, confidence and self-worth, so they can overcome the negative influence from a bully is key,” he says. “We want them to be able to ignore a bully and know and believe that the bully’s negative comments are not true.”