Katie E. McPeak, MD, Medical Director, Center for the Urban Child, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
For children, October means costumes, Columbus Day, hayrides and Halloween. October is also National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, a time to talk with our children about bullying. Bullying can have long-term effects and directly impact a student’s ability to learn, so it is important to address any signs of bullying as soon as possible.
Bullying is an aggressive, disrespectful behavior that comes in many forms, ranging from cyberbullying to name-calling. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), more than 160,000 US students stay home from school each day from fear of being bullied. Everyone involved in a child’s life, from parents to teachers to their pediatrician, has a responsibility to know the signs of bullying and help prevent bullying from happening.
Here are five tips to help your child prevent bullying:
- Don’t give in: Bullying is not OK. Typically, a bully is looking to get a response out of other children, which could cause their unwanted behavior to continue. At first, your child should remain calm in a bullying situation and walk away. This will show the bully that their behavior is not tolerated.
- Speak up when necessary: Encourage your child to speak up to the bully when necessary to defend others or themselves. Sometimes a firm, clear response will take the bully by surprise or encourage other children to intervene.
- Form strong friendships: Having loyal friendships at school can be helpful when tough situations like bullying occur. Let’s teach our children to treat each other the way they want to be treated. Ask them to remember a time when someone made fun of them and how that made them feel.
- Have an adult intervene: I recommend letting an adult know about any bullying situation as soon as possible. Children can talk to their teachers, principals, mentors or parents. It’s important that your child has an educational, fun and safe experience at school. An adult becoming involved is completely necessary if bullying situations continue and you’re worried about your child’s physical or mental health.
- Talk to your pediatrician: We’re here to provide advice and to help you and your child through a bullying situation. A pediatrician can help determine if further steps, such as a referral to behavioral health, need to be taken.
This month is a great time to help raise awareness about bullying prevention. I hope these tips are beneficial to you and your child, and always know you can turn to your pediatrician for more help.