The most effective way to combat bullying is to prevent it in the first place. But what if the problem has already infected a school or youth center? Have the adults at your organization ever made a concerted effort to determine how much bullying goes on?
Look for the signs
Without ever witnessing an incident, you can glean a lot from students’ behavior. For instance, if a boy has few friends and often asks to stay in during recess, he may be seeking refuge from a playground bully. Is there a shy student who complains of frequent headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, or other ailments? He may be a bullying victim.
Of course, these signs may be subtle, and teachers might not detect bullying before it escalates. But parents are on the front line. Communicate with them to find out if their child is often sad and dreads going to school. Has she experienced a loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping? Does she seem unusually anxious? These might be signs of bullying. In the extreme case, a student will come home with bruises and torn clothes. If that happens, parents must notify the school immediately.
According to the National Institutes of Health, possible signs of bullying include:
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Temper, agitation
- Irresponsible behavior
- Loss of interest in activities
- Inability to enjoy activities that were once pleasurable
- Change in appetite (usually loss but sometimes gain)
- Change in weight (loss or gain)
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Daytime sleepiness
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Memory loss
- Preoccupation with self
- Feelings of worthlessness, sadness, or self-hatred
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt feelings
- Acting-out behavior (missing curfews, unusual defiance)
- Thoughts about suicide or fears or worries about death
- Plans to commit suicide or suicide attempts