Is my teenager being bullied?
Erika Feldpausch is a behavioral health therapist on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (602) 865-4706.
Question: There are so many tragic stories in the news these days about the dangers of school bullying. How can I know if my teenager is being bullied at school and what should I do if I suspect this is the case?
Answer: School bullying is definitely an issue that is getting more attention these days, giving parents every reason to become familiar with the warning signs and options for addressing the problem. Of course, no parent wants to believe that this will happen to his/her child. But, the reality is, it might.
A child who is being bullied at school will often try to avoid school or school-related activities, even if that avoidance had not been a previous behavior of the child. The reason is bullied kids are repeatedly degraded and harassed, forcing them to constantly defend themselves against shameful or aggressive attacks.
Bullies convey to their victims that they are worthless, stupid, weak, unwanted and so on. When this message is being delivered over and over again, the child can begin to believe it. This can negatively affect self-image, lower self-esteem and depress mood. In extreme cases, the victim can develop suicidal thoughts and even act on those thoughts.
These negative psychological effects can lead to physical symptoms. Many kids who are bullied develop headaches, stomach aches or even medical conditions like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome because of the stress, worry and fear they have of returning to bullying situations.
Parents who notice these symptoms are highly encouraged to seek professional help for their child. The Banner Thunderbird Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program is a mental health therapy group that not only gives teenagers coping strategies to survive the bullying, but offers bullied teens the vital components of normalcy and validation. Many of the teenagers in the program have encountered bullying themselves.
Parents are empowered to advocate for their child by learning about the anti-violence policies in the school districts, which administrators and faculty members to contact, and how to support their children.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, don't wait to get help.