Ways to Prevent Bullying and Depression in Kids
One of the biggest worries in parenthood is that some harm will come to your child. As kids go through their school years, bullying begins to evolve as a real danger. The cruelty of kids and the insurmountable pressure of groupthink can be one of the most dangerous threats to childhood. And as kids reach middle school age, peer pressure escalates and social cliques take hold.
Bullying can happen at any age and to any child. Middle school, though, seems to be the most problematic. According to DoSomething.org, “90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.”
Unfortunately, while middle school sees the worst of bullying, it actually begins in the younger years…during elementary. DoSomething.org reports that physical bullying increases throughout the elementary years, gets worse during middle school, and eases up in high school years. However, the words — the verbal attacks, insults, and name-calling — never really get any better.
How can the words ever stop, though, when teens have an all-access pass to text messaging, social media, and other wired outlets. The internet paved the way for cyberbullying, which has become an even more complex form of bullying. As kids become old enough to enter the digital world — and secure their own phones — cyberbullying becomes easier. Kids are stealthy in their attacks, and may even bully through anonymous accounts or use apps that allow them to remain incognito. In a world where a picture, a text, and a rumor can go viral, cyberbullying has the ability to annihilate.
StopBullying.gov reports that bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, health issues and even lower school performance. And victims also are more likely to stay home from school…or drop out completely. At its worst, bullying has even pushed victims to the point of taking their own lives.
Every parent — especially in this wired world — has worried about their child becoming a victim of bullying. However, there are steps that all parents may take to empower kids and also to provide comfort and stability if their child does become a victim.
While no parent can shield their child from every hurt, we can prepare for those painful possibilities.
1. Talk about bullying.
Parents should talk to their child about bullying. Discuss cyberbullying and what information should (and should NOT) be shared online. Give children guidelines on what they should do if they are harassed online. Role-playing also may be helpful, especially if a child has difficulty reading social cues. Also discuss how teasing can escalate to bullying. Some teasing is funny, but some teasing is intentionally mean. Make sure kids know that they can — and should — tell an adult if they feel that they are being bullied or harassed in any way.
2. Lend an ear.
Make sure kids know that they can approach you if they are worried about something — at school, or elsewhere. Be a kind ear. Listen, and make sure kids know that you are there for them. Initiate conversations at the dinner table or privately to touch base about the day.
3. Watch for changes.
Pre-teens and teens get moody. Hormones, changing lives, and a need for independence can make kids pull away or seem agitated. We were all there at one time too. Just keep an eye out for abrupt changes. Sudden depression, sleeping too much, and changes in eating habits may signal that something is amiss.
4. Be an advocate.
If your child has been bullied, you need to address the situation. Contact the principal to set up a meeting. If the administration doesn’t offer a reasonable solution or fully address the problem, go up the chain of command. If the bullying was physical — or if inappropriate photos were involved — the authorities might need to step in.
5. Give them solace.
Bullying victims may need to talk to someone besides their parents. Sometimes a licensed counselor or therapist is the best resource. Some counselors in schools even use therapy dogs to help bullying victims heal. Pets — both big and small — also can be a source of cuddly comfort for a child. Pets are listeners, and they ask for nothing in return.
Bullying has become much too common, and many parents worry that their child will be the next victim — or statistic. While parents cannot completely stop bullying from occurring, they can empower their child and keep all lines of communication open. And if a child is victimized, parents should be prepared to take action, provide comfort, solace, and —most importantly — healing.
Gwen Lewis is a writer who lives in California. She has been in the fashion and health industry for years and loves writing on the topic to give tips from experience. In her free time, she loves to stay active and has just taken on learning how to surf. For more, visit her online portfolio here.