Going back to school can be stressful for many kids, especially if they have been the victims of bullying. According to Youth Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, an organization dedicated to eliminating bullying, a student is bullied every seven minutes in our country, and an estimated 77 percent of students will experience some form of mental or physical bullying during their school years.
While the statistics are worrisome, there are measures parents and caregivers can take to help identify the signs of bullying and the anxiety it can induce so they can help their children manage through this difficult situation.
Bullying can take many forms, including hitting, threatening, intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name calling, making sexual remarks, stealing or damaging personal belongings, and indirect attacks such as spreading rumors or getting others to exclude another student.
It's also no longer limited to the classroom, lunchroom or playground. Today, cyberbullying -bullying through electronic outlets such as text messages and social media sites - has made this issue a 24/7 challenge.
"Bullying can have a significant impact on students," said University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences instructor and expert on bullying Dr. John Nixon. "Children and teenagers who are bullied suffer from anxiety, fear, withdrawal, low self-esteem and poor concentration. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step toward ending the behavior."
Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include:
* Coming home with damaged or missing clothing or belongings
* Unexplained injuries
* Frequent complaints of headaches, stomach aches or feeling sick
* Changes in eating habits
* Loss of interest in friends or going to school
* Mood and behavior changes
* Trouble sleeping and/or having frequent bad dreams
* Feelings of helplessness or not being good enough
What You Can Do if Your Child is Bullied
Establishing a process for detecting, discussing and monitoring bullying can help in more effectively reaching a solution. "It can be embarrassing for a child to admit that they are being bullied," said Nixon. "And many kids don't tell parents about it because they are afraid of either being blamed for the situation, or they are afraid of how the parents will react."
Nixon offers some tips for what you can do:
* Increase awareness - Parents must educate themselves on the signs of bullying and realize that they are not alone.
* Communicate - Ask children questions about how they slept or what they are looking forward to doing in school that day. Their responses can provide a wealth of insight.
* Gather more information - Ask teachers if they have noticed anything that would signal the child had been bullied. Also, check a child's text messages and Facebook profile for signs of cyberbullying.
* Develop an action plan - Put steps in place to monitor the signs of bullying to see if it persists and engage your child regularly to open up communication about the problem.
* Follow through - It's important to keep at it. Be active to both spot the signs of bullying and discuss them with the child to work toward a solution. If bullying persists, take action. Discuss the problem with the parents of the child who is bullying, if it is appropriate. Talk with your child's teacher. If the teacher is not responsive, escalate the discussion up to the principal or superintendent if necessary.
There are more participants in bullying scenarios than just the bully and the victim. "More often than not," said Nixon, "there are bystanders. These are students who know what is going on and either encourage it in some way, or sit back and do nothing. We need more kids to stop being bystanders and take a stand against bullying."
You can find additional information on University of Phoenix degree offerings by visiting www.phoenix.edu, and more resources for helping students deal with bullying at www.a4kclub.org, and www.stopbullying.gov.