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What Parents Need To Know About Bullying

By Meg Quinlan:

Teenage Disney star and singer Demi Lovato was recently treated for an eating disorder, bipolar disorder, and self-mutilation, and revealed that her increasingly destructive behavior began at age 8 after being bullied by her peers.

Gossip Girl’s Michelle Trachtenberg was physically assaulted by a girl who threw her down a flight of stairs, punched her in the nose, and got her sent to detention.

Actress Jessica Alba used to eat lunch in the school nurses’ office to avoid her bullies, and her dad would escort her to school so that she wouldn’t be attacked.

Bullying is everywhere in our schools. According to a 2008 UCLA study, there are over three million victims every year. Though peers witness the vast majority of incidents, other children are unlikely to intervene. If it happens to your child, it is also very likely that they will keep it a secret. An overwhelming percentage of victims (90%) did not report the incident to an adult.

You can protect your kids by watching for these common signs that your child is being bullied. He or she:

  • comes home with damaged or lost clothes, books or possessions, without a good explanation;
  • has unexplained bruises, cuts or injuries;
  • does not bring friends home and rarely spends time with classmates outside school;
  • is anxious about going to school or taking the bus;
  • has little appetite, headaches or stomach aches;
  • steals or asks for extra money from family members;
  • seems unhappy, moody, uninterested in school or grades;
  • sleeps restlessly, has nightmares or cries in his or her sleep.

If you recognize these signs, or if your child confides in you, it is important that you act. Question them gently, listen carefully, be supportive, and don’t assume they provoked it. Contact your child’s school immediately. Talk to the teacher and the principal, insist on a plan to end the bullying, and work with them to implement the plan. Document all incidents and follow up with school personnel. Check in often with your child – if they are still hurting, have them talk to a counselor, or help them change activities, classes, even schools.

Parents can read more at Bullying Among Children And Young People, Helping Kids Deal With Bullies, and find more information at the PTA’s resources for bullying. Kids, visit Love is Louder, Kids Against Bullying, and for LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project.

Meg Quinlan is an author, parent, former bully and bullying victim.

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