Bullying can take on many forms; some direct, such as physical abuse, and some subtle or often overlooked, such as verbal abuse. Too often, verbal abuse is passed off as harmless teasing by other students or adults. While it may seem harmless, using your words to make someone feel bad is a form of bullying. Teaching children the power of their words and to speak up when the words of others make them feel uncomfortable can help prevent bullying or bring attention to it if your child is bullied. Fostering an open line of communication is important because it may make your child more comfortable talking to you if they experience or witness bullying.
To recognize signs of bullying, it helps to get in the habit of asking your child about their day and listening to who their friends are and how they are being treated. Asking open-ended questions gives them the opportunity to confide in you without your questions sounding judgmental or accusatory. Other signs to look for are changes in eating habits, making excuses not to go to school, acting out of character, declining grades, isolating themselves or digressing in development or behavior.
In severe cases of bullying, children may feel helpless or not good enough and won’t want to talk about it, which is why it’s so important as parents to look for signs of bullying and to get involved. If your child does tell you about bullying, it’s important to be receptive to what they’re telling you without judgment and to emphasize that it isn’t their fault. Many local churches, schools, and community centers offer mental health first aid, a program that helps teach individuals how to respond to others that are experiencing a mental health crisis, which can help parents learn how to respond and help their children who experience bullying. Here in the community, Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health professionals dedicated to educating and counseling children and families on bullying.
Debra Mack is the director of inpatient services at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital and a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse. Mack received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from North Carolina A&T University in 1996 and a Master of Science in nursing education from the University of Phoenix in 2010. She has been with Cone Health for fourteen years.