With Pink Shirt Day just around the corner I felt it was an opportune time to reflect on the importance of education around bullying. Sadly, no one is exempt from the experience of bullying. It’s something we can all relate to in one way or another. Whether your experience has been as the victim, the perpetrator, or the witness it can have long term physical and psychological consequences.
By definition, bullying is the repeated use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or embarrass others with the intent to harm. Bullying can happen to anyone at any age and may be in person or, in this day and age, through cyberbullying.
Up to 25% of students report having been bullied at some point in their lives – some with very severe outcomes. The devastating effects of bullying include physical and emotion pain, humiliation, embarrassment, and shame. Without support the individual may resort to social isolation, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They also may struggle with anger, aggression or hostility. Bullying can even lead to suicidal ideation, suicide, or violent behavior.
The added stress and anxiety caused by bullying and harassment obviously adds to the challenge of learning. Students have difficulty concentrating, a decreased ability to focus and they can’t seem to remember things that they’ve learned. So not only are they maladjusted on a social and emotional level, they may also struggle academically as well.
Often the bystanders are also hurt as they witness bullying. They may be in fear of being the next victim and leave feeling guilty or shameful for not stepping in. Or, they may avoid getting involved because they just aren’t sure what to do. In some cases witnesses may feel like they will only make it worse for the individual being bullied if they try to help. Talk to your kids about what they can do to stay safe and help others.
There are signals to be aware of that can alert parents to a potential bullying situation. Be curious if you notice your child has withdrawn from family and school activities, wants to be left alone, or has an unusual amount of shyness. He or she may claim to suffer with stomachaches and/or headaches, and possibly has panic attacks. They may not be able to sleep, sleep too much, seem exhausted, or suffer with nightmares. There is also potential for substance abuse as it provides an escape from their painful experiences.
It is incredibly important for adults/parents to set a good example and be a good role model. Research has shown that children who get away with violence and aggression continue to do so in adulthood. There will be a higher chance of dating aggression, sexual harassment, gangs, drugs, and other criminal behavior later in life. Take the time to talk about consequences and taking responsibility for your own actions. Be curious about why someone chooses to bully others and offer support. There’s always a reason behind the behavior and often it’s a call out for love.
Starting at a young age we must teach and model empathy, compassion, kindness, acceptance and understanding. Let children know that there will be no tolerance for bullying and why it’s so important to treat one another as you would like to be treated.
Each of us deserve to feel safe in the world. If you are being bullied, know of someone who is, or you are a bully yourself, there are resources to help. Contact me to schedule counselling sessions or find support using one of the resources listed below.
Kids Help Phone
I Am Someone
Youth in BC
Wishing you a gentle journey,