Effects of Bullying
Being a victim of bullying is hardly an enjoyable experience. Bullying at school greatly affects the mental health of students. It can destroy students’ self-esteem and causes lifelong health problems. Victims of bullying may experience constant feelings of insecurity, depression, and anxiety. This can have many undesirable effects, including inhibiting their ability to concentrate on their learning. Children who are bullied live in constant fear as they do not know when the next attack against them will be launched, leaving them with feelings of helplessness. As a result, they may feel that school is not a safe place for them to learn and pursue their dreams. Hence, generating proper solutions for bullying is needed.
Students Who are Bullied
Bullying can happen to anyone and can take many different forms. It may be physical, such as kicking or pushing, or verbal, like name-calling or threatening. Those who tend to be targeted most are people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBT, and low-income people of color. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Nearly 40% of high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and about 33% of those who were not sure of their sexual identity experienced bullying at school or electronically in the last year, compared to 22% of heterosexual high school students.” Researchers at stopbullying.gov claim that “Black and Hispanic youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer academically than their white peers.” Students who are bullied may experience negative emotions and psychological issues. If you are a teacher or parent, you can check out our article to learn more about how to monitor students’ mental health.
Challenges Around the Topic of Bullying
In this study, “Challenges in Emerging Adulthood Related to the Impact of Childhood Bullying Victimization,” students experienced the negligence of teachers at school who unintentionally tolerated bullying behaviors. The students reported that “the school did not understand, or did not want to offer any help or support in ending the bullying, or was not able to do so.” This means the school lacked proper solutions for bullying, putting the power in the hands of the bullies. Not being able to ask for help from the school disappoints students and causes feelings of distrust. This can make them feel anxious, fruitless, and depressed – severely affecting their capacity to grow, learn, and flourish.
We, at E.R.E., care deeply for our students and their well-being; we prioritize our students’ safety and want them to enjoy learning. Here are 5 strategies we find helpful to protect our children from the negative effects of bullying.
Solutions for Bullying
Teach kids how to manage negative emotions and behaviors
Negative emotions can lead to dangerous and violent behaviors (such as hitting someone for no reason) to release the resulting frustration and anger. Hence, it is necessary to teach all children how to manage these types of bleak feelings in a healthy way.
You can start by building confidence in your children. For example, you can say, “You have such a great attitude” or “You should be proud of the hard work you are doing.” This helps children build confidence in areas not tied to grades or scores. Then you can suggest some proactive self-regulation techniques, such as a quiet break without technology, exercise and other forms of physical activity, and sensory tools (stress balls, fidget spinners, poppets, infinity cubes). Help children identify what strategies work best for them to use when needed. Additionally, you can incorporate some psychology into learning. For instance, utilize literature or history to discuss human behaviors and emotions, how these can impact others, and alternative approaches along with their potential outcomes.
Role-play bullying scenarios
Role-playing with your children can also teach them effective ways to react to bullies. You can show them how to respond by creating scenarios and acting them out together. For instance, you can pretend to be the bully who is demanding money from your child. Then, you can ask him/her to act out a response. If he/she struggles to devise a reaction, you can model it. Maybe show how to say something like, “If you try to take my money, I will report you to the teacher. I am not afraid of you.” Remind your kid to stay calm, maintain eye contact, speak with a confident voice, then walk away. Share that it takes courage to stand up for themselves, but it is a skill that will be useful throughout life.
Pay attention to warning signs
The typical warning signs of bullying may include unexplained injuries like bruises, changes in eating habits, fear of going to school, or withdrawal. For this reason, you should check in with your kids daily about how school is going. Encourage them to talk by asking open-ended questions such as “Who did you eat lunch with today?,” “What group activities did you do?,” or “What’s something cool you learned?” Showing an interest in their day demonstrates that you care about what they have to say, thereby encouraging them to open up.
Encourage kids to speak up
Help your children learn the power of their voice. Supporting them to speak up can set the foundation for them to advocate for themselves in other ways. You can start by having them practice minor tasks, such as ordering food or sharing ideas about a specific topic. This will help establish their confidence and self-advocacy skills, and show them that words can affect action.
Kids may often be afraid to speak up about bullying because they fear it may lead to worse consequences. However, telling adults about what happened is essential if they are hurting. You can share your personal stories of times you spoke up for yourself even when you were feeling frustrated or upset. If a kid does tell you about being bullied, take it seriously. Remind them it is not their fault and that you will do your best to help them.
Create a friendly learning environment
If you are a teacher, there are additional approaches you can take to protect against bullying. Start by creating a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging in your classroom. For example, you can give each individual equal opportunities to talk in class and offer students chances to share their cultural experiences with the class. When students are allowed to speak freely, they will feel more understood by you and their peers and thus more comfortable at school. Also, you can create opportunities for students to interact more with each other through projects and field trips, which will increase cooperation and camaraderie among them.
Moreover, it is essential to create a relationship of trust with your students. When you build positive relationships with your students, you create a classroom atmosphere that encourages learning and better meets the developmental, emotional, and academic needs of your students. For example, you can check in with them about how they are feeling at the beginning of each class. Or you could give meaningful compliments, like “You did a great job working on this project. You should be proud of yourself.” You can use creative writing exercises (such as poems, songs, and stories) to help students express their feelings privately. Or you can give them space to explore their feelings about the issue of bullying by guiding discussions around the topic. Your support is essential to make your classroom a welcoming place for students to learn and develop academically, emotionally, and morally.
E.R.E. is committed to providing an environment free of violence, bullying, and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, and any other basis of discrimination. We utilize Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) methods, which create a healthy and positive learning environment for students who are facing a wide range of issues, including bullying and mental health struggles. Become a donor or partner today to support us in our mission!