Monday, August 23, 2010

Bully basics

You packed the backpack. You made a lunch. You picked the right back-to-school outfit. You talked about all the things your kiddo will learn this year and how to act on the first day of school. And you snapped a photo as your youngster headed off to school this morning.

But did you think to discuss how to deal with a bully?

It’s hard to think about your child being teased or tormented, but the sad reality is that in North Texas complaints about bullying continue to rise.

So what’s a parent to do?

Amazingly, it’s really the little things that help.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that the first thing parents can do is talk to their children. Ask subtle questions like who do you sit with at lunch? Or ask are there kids at school you don’t like? You’d be amazed the conversations those seemingly simple questions can generate.

“Taking an active interest in children’s friendships and activities can make a difference in spotting signs of bullying early,” Ross Teemant, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical manager at Texas Health Springwood Hospital. “Monitoring your child’s behaviors and noticing subtle behavior shifts can be among the first signs of problems at school.”

Keeping a close eye out and ear open for signs of trouble is crucial because many times children are too afraid to share the information even with a close parent.

If the subtle observations and chats don’t work, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests looking for possible warning signs that a child is being bullied. Those signs include:
• Unexplained cuts and bruises;
• Few friends;
• Lost interest in school;
• Trouble sleeping;
• Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other pains;
• Low self esteem; and
• Loss of appetite.

Even if your child isn’t being bullied, it’s important to show by example the right behaviors. Letting children see healthy friendships and engaging in activities together can make a big difference.

With a new school year the slate is blank. So when the kiddos hop off the school bus today or you sit down to dinner, try starting a simple conversation. You may be surprised at how fruitful it can be.

Jennifer Erickson
Sr. Public Relations Specialist
Texas Health HEB

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