Prevention and Intervention
Being bullied can make a child feel helpless, alone, and very, very frightened. This kind of stress is very difficult for a child who does not have any mental health issues to manage. This stress is intensified when a child must manage his/her mood swings of bipolar disorder, worry about balancing mental health, and also deal with the torment of bullying. If you your believe that you child is vulnerable to being targeted as a victim by bullies, there are some steps that you can take.
Often times, a child is reluctant to talk to their parents or other family members about what is happening at school. Sometimes they do not tell anyone. This can be for a variety of reasons. A child might e embarrassed. The child may have been told not to tell, and is afraid to say anything. The child might fear what his mother, father or other family member might think of him. Sometimes a child might be feeling so helpless and/or apathetic that they don’t even think to reach out and talk to someone.
In my last post, I mentioned that victims of bullying are often those who are perceived to be easily manipulated, or unable to defend themselves. Also, a child who has under developed or awkward social skills, or is unable to adequately pick up social cues, or exhibits behaviors that might receive negative attention during class, might be vulnerable to bullying. So, it goes with saying that proactively helping your child learn social skills and integrate into his or her social world will help tremendously with decreasing the probability of him or her becoming a target. You can ask to include social skills training into your child’s IEP plan. Here are some additional tips to help prevent your child from becoming a target for bullying, and or to intervene should you suspect that he or she is:
· Be involved in your child’s school activities. If you are too busy to volunteer to help in your child’s classroom, get your child’s teacher’s number and e-mail and connect with her often. Talk to your child every day about school and ask what his or day is like. Help your child with homework, and discuss the day’s activities with your child daily.
· Help your child socialize and make friend with peers at school: invite friends over for parties and sleep over’s; ask your child regularly if he or she has made any new friends, and be curious about your child’s friends.
· Actively teach your child social skills. As mentioned above, you might ask to have social skills training added to your child’s EIP if this is relevant and appropriate. With that said, spend time talking to you child about life on the bus, or walking to/from school, playground and in the classroom, and what to do in different scenarios.
· Actively teach your child coping skills to decrease episodes or events of acting out due to frustration. This will decrease negative attention and embarrassment. (Asking for a time out, breathing, relaxing neck and shoulder, coloring, etc. See additional posts for teaching your child how to acquire, master, and use coping skills)
· Help your child build confidence and self esteem. Emphasize your child’s strengths. Talk about your child’s accomplishments with your child, and to others whom your child feels connected to. In addition to helping your child identify his or her strengths, emphasize unconditional love and acceptance of your child as well. Help your child find a hobby or activity to identify with outside of school as well.
National Bullying Prevention Center: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/
Stop Bullying.gov: http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/index.html
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