Bullying is not a new phenomenon. History books and literature are filled with examples of the cruel practice. And then there are the stories of those who bravely overcame bullying -- like Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who was teased for his appearance, or Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, who was made fun of for her weight -- and went on to lead extraordinary lives. But despite how commonplace bullying may be, when it's happening to your child, you're not likely to just dismiss it as a phase of life. Nor should you. Bullying can be detrimental to your child's emotional, psychological and physical well-being. And, in some cases, it can be deadly.
So, what is a parent to do? Likely, the mere mention of bullying brings out your fierce mama bear instincts, making you want to lash out at anyone bringing harm to your little cub. In some cases, though, you may not even know your child is a bullying victim. Your first job is to be aware of whether your child is exhibiting the following signs:
- Frequently has damaged clothing and belongings, or unexplained injuries.
- Is afraid of going to school or another specific place.
- Seems to be depressed or anxious and has low self-esteem.
If you suspect bullying, there are steps you can take to help protect your child. You might contact an adult at your child's school and enlist his or her help, and encourage your child to seek protection in a pack by always staying with groups of friends. It is also important just to talk to you child, helping him or her learn to be more confident and assertive -- even helping your child practice what to say to the bully. You probably shouldn't encourage your child to fight a bully -- even if every family sitcom ever produced tells you otherwise.
Not all bullies represent a physical threat. Keep reading to learn about the different types of bullying.