On the surface, bullying may not seem as serious as drug use or carrying weapons to school, but it can have severe long-term effects.
Bullying involves intentionally tormenting someone verbally, physically or psychologically. It can range from extorting money and possessions or hitting, shoving and threatening to name-calling, shunning others or spreading rumors about them. In the past, it was all confined to a certain place e.g. school. However, with the rise of social media and constant connectivity, bullying can go on 24/7.
Instead of brushing off this bad behavior and telling our children to “toughen up”, it’s time parents paid attention. Bullying can leave deep emotional scars and in severe cases, it can affect your child’s sense of self-worth, contributing to tragedies such as suicide.
By the Numbers
Before dismissing bullying and its connection to suicide consider this:
- According to the CDC, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among persons aged 10-24.
- There are more than 3,470 suicide attempts daily in the US by children in grades 9-12.
- Every 30 minutes, a teenager attempts suicide because of bullying.
- 74% of 8-11-year-olds say teasing and bullying happens at their school.
- Nearly 160,000 children miss school daily because they’re scared of bullying.
Early Warning Signs Of Suicide
Paying attention to your child’s behavior can alert you to any changes that indicate they may attempt suicide. Some signs to watch out for include:
- Making direct or indirect references to suicide.
- Depression and withdrawal.
- Lacking interest in activities they previously enjoyed e.g. sports.
- Making final arrangements e.g. saying goodbye to you and their friends.
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits.
If your child shows any of these signs, have a conversation with them and seek professional help if necessary.
Tips To Help Your Child
No parent wants to think of their child being bullied or committing suicide as a result. It is therefore important to get proactive about bullying before things deteriorate.
If your child is being bullied, here’s how you can help:
- Listen to them. Listen carefully and sympathetically to your child’s report of being bullied. Reassure them that it’s not their fault. Most importantly, do not blame the victim by chastising or criticizing them.
- Contact the school. While you might be tempted to confront the bully’s parents directly, it is better to report the issue to your child’s teacher or principal. They can then take appropriate action to stop the bullying.
- Teach your child safety strategies. Remember, hitting back or taking revenge only makes things worse. Instead, encourage your child to act brave, walk away and to report the incident to a teacher, school counselor or another adult.
- Nurture your child’s self-esteem. Bullying can erode your child’s self-esteem so find ways to nurture it including encouraging them to develop their talents through participating in sports or joining clubs. Also, teach them to carry themselves with confidence and help them improve their social skills so they can make new friends.
Taking the initiative to deal with bullying can help make schools safer and more enjoyable for our children.