Do we as a community only bring awareness when “extremely” bad things happen? Or when someone crossed the line and an irreversible mistake was made? I asked myself this question because October was National Bully Awareness Month, and I haven’t seen any educational handout or awareness assembly in the Centralia School District located in Orange County. Bullying is an imbalance of power and its negative impact has long lasting effects, and it should be taken seriously. For instance, just recently a Moreno Valley middle school boy was sucker punched so badly that it resulted in his death. In addition, just an eight year old boy committed suicide due to constant bullying in a school bathroom. This is a parent’s worst nightmare, the inability to control other childrens’ behaviors. However, through constant education and awareness of parents and children, we can help save another kid or their own.
First and foremost, in order to bring awareness, let’s define bullying. According to StopBullying.org, an official website of the United States, bullying is considered teasing, talking about hurting someone, spreading rumors, leaving kids out on purpose, and attacking or yelling at someone. Bullying can also occur in a cyber way in the type of fake profiles, text messages, emails, and sharing of embarrassing pictures/videos. Bullying doesn’t need to happen in person to be considered hurtful. Learning to identify bullying is the first step in helping a child who is bullying or a victim of bullying.
The second thing we as parents should know in order to course correct, is what happens when a kid is being bullied, identify your child’s role. Everyone plays a role in the bullying; the kid who bullies, the kids who are being bullied, and the kids who see bullying. For instance, the bully takes on a leadership role, the bullied kid – is the victim, the outsiders play a passive or supporter bully role (since they don’t stop the bullying), and others can play the defenders of the victim. Everyone who stops to see what’s going on is also playing a role and becomes a part of the “circle of bullying” even if it’s unintentional. The silent bystander reinforces the bully’s behavior and silently encourages the bullying to continue. Knowing to identify potential circle of bullying roles, helps parents and school officials provide solutions to help.
Third, who is at risk? There is no one correct answer for this and bullying can happen anywhere and to anyone. However, there are some children who have one or more risk factors such as: kids with special needs, kids who belong to the LGBTQ community, kids who are overweight/underweight, or perceived as weak or different, and kids who are depressed. These are just a few reasons, but generally it can happen to any child, whether they live in the city or suburb.
Lastly, what are the warning signs of bullying and what can a parent do? According to the National Center Against Bullying, there are emotional and physical signs of bullying. A few emotional signs of bullying consist of: mood swings, emotional out taking on younger siblings, withdrawing from preferred activities, etc. Physical signs include: unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, damaged clothes and property. In addition to behavioral signs are also seen such as: frequent crying, anger, stammering, unexplained regression. Knowing and being able to recognize bullying is the first part in helping a child. Other forms of support are working with your kids school to have a strict No Bullying Policy. In addition, the greatest form of help is establishing a strong connection with your children. Kids want to feel safe and having a safe environment at home not just the community is crucial.
In closing, bullying isn’t a new topic or will ever go away for good. In my opinion, it is up to the school to create awareness through bully prevention programs and us parents to educate ourselves on what to look for in bullying. Furthermore, passing out a one page about intolerating bullying at the beginning of the school year, yet not creating any special event during October’s National Bully Awareness Month is pathetic and poor leadership. Do we have to wait for more children to get sent to the hospital to talk about its consequences? No! The time is now and all year round.
Karen Cervantes Jimenez
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