I am always super excited to see all the Back to School pictures of my nieces, nephews, as well as the children of my co-workers and friends. In every picture I find smiling faces, new uniforms and clothes, fresh footwear and stylish backpacks. Effortlessly, I am drawn to the energy of eagerness seen behind the smiles of each child returning to school.
I am oftentimes reminded of that level of enthusiasm when I look at the photos of my own children throughout their school age years. It’s funny because I recently discovered a picture of a little boy in my family photo album. The amusing thing is that I almost didn’t recognize the image staring back at me; the little boy in the portrait was me. Instantly, I was overtaken by a rush of childhood memories in my mind.
I suddenly found myself remembering all the times that I looked forward to the start of a new school year. The freshness of the school year meant the chance to create relationships and become reacquainted with others: I got a new teacher. I met new people and made new friends. I even got the chance to catch-up with old friends who I hadn’t seen since the end of the last school year. I can remember feeling excited and nervous simultaneously about the new classroom environment, who was going to sit next to me and if my Mom packed all the stuff I liked for lunch.
On the other hand, I can’t help but recall the overwhelming stress and angst that I experienced during class, when I walked down the hallway, while in the locker-room and seated on the school bus. Indeed, I was taunted and bullied throughout the school day; I never told a teacher nor did I talk about it at home.
Ironically, I passed countless adults throughout the school day and no one ever stopped to ask me how my day was going or uttered an “Are you okay?” As a current Father, Parent Consultant and a Survivor of school bulling, I would like to share with you some of the warning signs of bullying and things you can do to stop bullying.
Warning signs a child is being bullied:
- Sudden loss of interest in schoolwork, after-school activities, and sports that they once loved
- May make up excuses as to way they can't attend school
- May frequently complain of aliments like stomachaches and headaches
- Appears afraid, sad, depressed and moody when returning home from school. This might be mistaken for typical pre-teen or puberty phase, but don’t dismiss it as just a “stage” when it could be a sign of something more.
- Shows signs of embarrassment, shame, or negative body image – often a sign a child is being bullied online or in social media platforms
Signs your child may be bullying others:
- Peers are participating in delinquent behaviors
- Testing limites, boundaries, and rules
- Showing signs of physical or verbal aggression toward adults and peers
- Obsessed with popularity and on the phone or computer more often. Virtual, bullying is real so pay attention to where your child “hangs out” online.
- Family Challenges - Parents Divorce, Lack of attention from parents, keep in mind that a change in patterns and behaviors from parents can also impact children/teens in many ways.
What to do if you suspect bullying in any form:
- First, start an open, honest conversation with your child(ren).
- Make a daily habit of discussing age appropriate 'Hot Topics'
- My favorite way to do this, is to ask your child: How was your day? And then ask: What could have made your day better?
If really suspect something is going on:
Contact the school principal/counselor and meet with them right away.
If you suspect Online Bullying:
- Start the conversation with your child before you need to: set ground rules and have access to your child’s passwords to all accounts
- Set time limits for using phones/computers and have an online presence yourself in order to monitor activity. These small steps will provide you with variable information around your child’s/teen's online behavior.
- If you see evidence of cyberbullying, contact school officials and potentially, local law enforcement if necessary.