When your child comes home from school and says classmates are being mean, you may have an onslaught of advice for your kiddo.
Tell the teacher.
Stand up for yourself.
Avoid that other kid.
That may solve the problems. In other cases, what your child is experiencing may cross over from typical teasing to bullying.
Licensed counselor Meghan Flynt Burns explained the difference to News Mississippi.
“Really, the difference is very individualized, that’s up to the child,” said Burns. “But you may notice a change or impact in three categories: at home, at school, or socially.”
Burns said behavior changes regarding any or all of these categories should be red flags that what your child is experiencing is far more than just playground play.
At home, if your child is not wanting to eat, or has gone from loving school to hating it, or has withdrawn from after-school interests, those are examples of impacts of bullying at home, school, and socially.
For parent Amanda Johns, the red flags started going up in her son when he started to behave differently.
“Cody didn’t want to go to school,” said Johns. “He would cry all the time, and he would ask why people didn’t like him or love him, and he would even say he wanted to die.”
Johns said until that point, her son had always been joyful, bouncy, and had a zest for school.
Finally, two months into the school year, Cody told his mom what was happening.
“He was being bullied by kids in his class, and a former friend that for some reason he wasn’t friends with anymore,” said Johns.
The teacher was told about the situation, and for a few weeks everything calmed down.
“But with over 20 kids, you can’t control everything,” said Johns. “Then they started being physically violent toward him in the bathroom, where the teacher couldn’t go.”
After four months, Johns made a discovery that shook her, and she sought help for Cody right away.
“He always played a video game on my phone,” said Johns. “But one day I was going through my phone after he had it, and he had taken a picture of himself with a belt around his neck, like he had just strangled himself.”
Cody was only eight years old.
At that point, Johns called on Burns at Canopy Children’s Solutions for help.
“With therapy for bullying, we teach social skills, coping skills,” said Burns. “We teach positive statements, and show them a method of facing these issues.”
Johns said nine weeks of therapy gave her son the boost he needed.
“She (the therapist) taught him how to think before he acted, taught him how to talk to other kids, and how to process his feelings,” said Johns.
Burns said therapy not only allows the child to cope with the issues they face with bullying, but also teaches them to stand up for themselves.
“He was teaching kids on the playground what he was learning in his sessions,” said Burns. “And he was making friends that way. Therapy to him was cool.”
Johns said the bullying didn’t stop. Her son just had better ways of handling the situation.
“He stands up for himself now,” said Johns. “He’s confident, which helped him make friends, even with some of the kids that used to bully him. At his last birthday party, half of them showed up.”
For more information about the effects of bullying, or counseling options, visit the Canopy Children’s Solutions website.