Most schools now have policies stating that bullying will not be tolerated. The reality—a policy is only as good as the school personnel charged with its enforcement. In addition, bullying can be overt (physical, verbal), or more covert (“forgetting” to invite a peer to a party that the entire class will be attending). Bullying can happen to any child, in any grade. However, children viewed as somehow “different” (children from a different ethnic background than the majority of students, children with a visible disability, children small for their age, or with few friends) are more likely to be targeted. Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, behavior changes such as school refusal, changes in mood including acting more anxious or depressed, changes in appetite, or a decline in grades.

Helping Bullied Children

A bullied child may become severely anxious or depressed. He or she may begin to engage in self-injury, or even voice threats of wanting to kill himself or herself. He or she may isolate and try to maintain an invisible presence at school.

In addition to services from a child’s school counselor, individual counseling can offer longer sessions and a safe space for a bullied child to explore solutions, and learn to feel more confident. Recommended interventions for children being bullied include a combination of individual and family counseling, incorporating cognitive and behavioral techniques. Techniques may include addressing anxiety or depressive symptoms, a focus on the child’s positive qualities and self-esteem, improved physical and verbal assertiveness through role plays, and helping a child view himself or herself as more powerful and less of a “victim”. Together, these techniques will increase a child’s confidence, help him or her feel less anxious or depressed, and more optimistic about the future.


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