Bullying: What Can A Parent Do?

Kimberly Lank, D.O.
Hoag Medical Group

Bullying can be a major issue for your child’s health and well-being. More than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day from the fear of being bullied and recent research suggests 80-90 percent of adolescents will face psychological and/or physical harassment at some point during their school years. This can play a direct role on your child’s mental and physical health, and affect their ability to learn. It is imperative that pediatricians and parents partner together to combat this important issue. Below are helpful tips I provide to parents of my patients to guide this challenging topic:

  1. Help your child understand bullying. Teach your child what it is and that it is unacceptable.
  2. Identify the problem. Unfortunately bullying often goes unreported. Make sure to communicate with your child about school and ask directly about bullying. There are also important signs in your child to look out for which could indicate bullying including physical complaints (headaches, insomnia, stomachaches), psychological complaints (anxiety, loneliness), behavioral changes (irritability, poor concentration, school avoidance) and school problems (academic failure, lack of friends), self-harm (cutting and experimenting with substances) or depression (refusing to go to school, scared of going to school, finding ways to leave school early).
  3. Stand up to bullying. If your child is being bullied, teach them to respond by saying “stop” confidently or “leave me alone,” or instruct them to walk away from the situation if these strong words are not helping. If your child witnesses bullying, instruct them to get assistance from an adult.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your child to always inform a trusted adult if he or she is getting bullied and to always let you know about bullying at school. Parents should set up a meeting with their child’s teacher to make sure bullying is being addressed and to ensure the safety of the children. Teachers and parents should communicate regularly. Parents should also bring this issue up with their child’s pediatrician.
  5. Raise self-esteem. Involve your child in extracurricular activities that build confidence, including exposing them to other children with similar interests.
  6. Be an advocate. Involve your family in school-community violence and bullying intervention programs.

Together we can play an active role in the health and wellness of your child, and help to prevent bullying!