Monday, August 9, 2010

Helping Kids Deal With Bullies

(StatePoint)  With school bullying a growing issue that is prompting many states to adopt anti-bullying laws, parents need to learn to recognize signs of bullying and how to help their children deal with the problem.

For years, bullying was considered by many to be a normal part of growing up, a "rite of passage." That antiquated thinking is being replaced by more progressive understanding of peer abuse, its causes and consequences.  

"Everyone asks me if bullying is any worse today than it was 30 years ago. The cruelty that kids perpetrate is the same but the weapons to achieve it are more sophisticated. With the Internet, Facebook and texting, students can't even escape bullying in their own homes," says survivor turned activist, Jodee Blanco, author of The New York Times bestseller, "Please Stop Laughing at Me..." and its award winning sequel, "Please Stop Laughing at Us." 

Blanco, who travels the nation's schools sharing her story, says that when addressing students her message is two-fold: It's not just joking around, bullying damages you for life. And bullying isn't only the mean things you do, but the nice things you never do, like letting someone sit alone at lunch or walk to class alone -- such exclusion often hurts more than overt abuse.  

Here are some tips to help children deal with bullying:

* Look for signs your child may be a victim of peer cruelty -- change in appetite, depression, fits of rage, frequent illnesses or faking sick, or spending too much time alone in his or her room.

* Fix the problem, not your kid. It's often what's right about a child that makes him or her a target.  Encourage children not to change who they are for anyone, that who they are is wonderful and you're proud of their individuality.  

* Don't tell your child to ignore bullies and walk away. Grown up logic doesn't work in teen situations. Tell your child to look the mean kid in the eye, show absolutely no emotion, and simply tell him or her to stop. 

* Find an interim social outlet where your child can experience a fresh start with new faces. Contact the nearest park district and public library that do not feed into your school district and ask them to send you lists of their activities for kids, then enroll your child in an activity of choice.  

* Be your child's advocate. Reach out to other parents whose children are being bullied and organize a coalition. Go up the ladder until you get results, starting with the school counselor all the way to the school board. 

For more advice on preventing and dealing with bullying or to invite Jodee Blanco to speak at your child's school, visit jodeeblanco.com.

As Blanco frequently reminds bullying victims, "Standing up for yourself in the moment abuse occurs is your human right. Seeking vengeance later on is a mistake. So be brave, and speak up."


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