Back to school is upon us, AGAIN! Many students are excited about the new school year. Some students could not care less, and others dread the thought of getting up early, riding the big yellow bus, and doing homework. All students will not have to face the anxiety of a new school year; rather the fear is a bully, teacher, biology, or calculus. Research shows that 160,000 children miss school each day because of a bully or bullying behaviors. As I have reported in the past, bullying is a national epidemic, and society is not doing enough to protect its children.
Bullying is not harmless; bullying is not child’s play; bullying is not a rite of passage. A rite of passage insinuates that bullying is part of life and the school experience, so children should expect to be bullied. Children should go to school to learn history, science, arithmetic, spelling, and using correct grammar. Being bullied should not be one of the soft skills or embedded learning experiences in the school curriculum. In the academic subjects, students receive a particular letter or number denoting pass or fail as they matriculate through school. What grade do students get for enduring four, six, eight, or twelve years of bullying? How do teachers indicate if their students passed or failed? If the student never attempts suicide, is that a passing score? If the student only has low self-esteem and depression and anxiety, is that considered acceptable to be promoted to another year of punishment? If the individual only has non-suicidal injuries – such as cutting or burning – is that enough for promotion? But when the person dies by suicide, it is safe to say that he or she failed the rite of passage.
Many children believe that when they get older, they will grow up and out of the bullying environment, but the psychological effects and ramifications follow them into adulthood. Bullying is not in the state’s standards. Children are steadfast in believing that their suffering will be over when they become adults. Unfortunately, the research does not predict a happily ever after but a possible lifetime of physical and psychological problems, leaving mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical wounds. Parents and educators must recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying. Often, the physical signs are evident – like unexplained injuries, bruises, broken bones, and the black eye. Bullied children tend to isolate themselves from family and friends, become depressed, and become overly anxious. Vanderbilt and Augustyn (2010) identified several red flags that an individual is being bullied. Some of the more common indications are stomachaches, headaches, insomnia, social problems, lack of friends, and academic failure.
Bullying is considered on an extensive list of differential diagnoses because bullying may overlap with other conditions such as medical illness, learning problems, and psychological disorders.
Adults who were bullied as a child or adolescent may have a lower socioeconomic status (poverty), suffer from anxiety and depression, experience psychosis, and have suicidal ideations or attempts. Children should be assessed from birth to understand the extent of bullying on psychosis later in their adult life. Some children are five times more likely to suffer from episodes of psychosis by the age of 18 (Blad, 2016). In adulthood, bullied children have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and plans than children who had not been bullied (Wagner, 2016). There is no escape when bullied children grow up to be high school dropouts, experiencing long-term effects such as depression, relationship problems, psychosis, substance use disorder, and suicide. If the psychological effects of bullying follow children into adolescent and adulthood, not only did the children fail the rite of passage, but parents failed; educators failed; church leaders failed; the school system failed; society failed these children.
Bullying is not a school problem but a nation’s problem; it is everyone’s responsibility to the Be the Difference by being upstanders and not bystanders. If a person is not part of the solution, he or she is part of the problem. In closing, parents, please be vigilant and commit to the following each day:
- Pray with your children every morning.
- Validate your children and love them unconditionally.
- Believe in your children by adding to their lives.
- Ask your children about their day. What happened in school? What did you learn? What did you have for lunch? Do not ask out of formality but ask out of genuine concern.
- Turn off the television, cellphones, and other electronic devices.
- Listen nonjudgmentally. Show your children that they have your undivided attention.
- Monitor a change in behavior that affects them personally, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
- Hug and kiss your children every day.
- Tell your children that you love them.
- Show your children just how much you love them and that they mean the world to you.
- Pray with your children at the end of each day.
For more information, recommendations, and helpful tips contact Kevin Johnson at 1.800.518.2347, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit the website at https://youbethe1.org.
Be Inspired; Be Empowered; Be the Difference!