Bullying: The Conversation Parents Need to Have
With recent teen suicides reportedly connected to bullying incidents, the potential harmful mental health effects of this abuse are becoming more clear.
However, bullying can be difficult to spot and can take many forms, including verbal abuse, name-calling and teasing, intimidation and physical abuse. And while the schoolyard bully often seen in movies still exists, bullying has moved online, to places that may not be as visible to parents, teachers and friends. In fact, bullying may be happening in your own home without your knowledge, on social media sites, via e-mail and in chat rooms.
"Bullying is a very serious issue that can result not only in immediate physical injury, but in lifelong emotional scars as well," said Angela Mohan, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and member of CAMFT. "Bullying in 2010 isn't the same thing that parents may have experienced. Teens face bullies at school, home and in the online world. There's no escape."
Parents need to take action to identify bullying that may be happening now, to stop bullying that is taking place and to prevent it from happening in the future.
"Talking with your teen about how to handle bullies and how parents can provide needed support is critically important," said Mohan. "Developmentally, teens are learning how to problem solve. Parents can work with their teen to come up with a solution for dealing with the bully and resolving the situation."
Talking with a teen about bullies is often a three part conversation:
Some teens may be reluctant to talk with their parents about bullying. They might be embarrassed, afraid of the repercussions of telling someone or simply uncomfortable talking about it. If this is the case, parents should enlist the help of another adult with whom their child is comfortable, such as an aunt or uncle, teacher, pastor or counselor. A number of schools also have peer counseling groups that can be helpful.
Warning signs of bullying can include a decrease in grades, insomnia, isolation from friends, lack of interest in school activities and low self esteem. Some cases of bullying can progress to clinical depression and self harm or suicide.
The effects of bullying can be serious and long-lasting. Talk therapy with a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or other mental health professional can help a teen who is dealing with the emotional impacts of bullying. To find a California-based Marriage and Family Therapist in your area, visit www.TherapistFinder.com.
The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of the state's licensed and prelicensed Marriage and Family Therapists and the common interests of its 29,000 members. CAMFT provides TherapistFinder.com as a free resource for individuals looking for Marriage and Family Therapists located in California. Marriage and Family Therapists treat a comprehensive range of issues including depression, anxiety, phobias/fears, elder and child issues, relationship issues, post-traumatic stress and severe mental illness. For more information, visit www.camft.org or www.TherapistFinder.com.
1. General, open-ended inquiry: "Is anything going on at school or online with your friends/classmates that you want to talk about?" If the child seems hesitant to open up, don't force the issue. 2. Share a personal story: "When I was on high school..." Parents can relate with their child and encourage a conversation by telling a story about a time when they were bullied at school or at work. 3. Direct inquiry: "Are you being bullied?"
SOURCE California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists; TherapistFinder.com
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