Young students returning to school may encounter common but serious problems, such as bullying. Because it often goes unreported, experts cannot be sure about the prevalence of bullying. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, citing national statistics, says that about 20 percent of students report being bullied.
Types of bullying can vary. Students may be mocked and called names, have rumors spread about them, get pushed or tripped, or be deliberately excluded from social activities.
Bullying can lead to:
- Anxiety and depression
- Limited social opportunities
- Poor school performance
- Physical health problems such as digestive distress and headaches
Thanks to increasing awareness of the problem, many schools and organizations have established anti-bullying policies. However, due to the prevalence of the problem and the serious long-term consequences that may arise, students and families should also take their own steps to mitigate bullying. Therapists of young clients can also play an important role in addressing bullying.
Address the problem in therapy sessions
Students who experience bullying often exhibit mental-health symptoms such as those associated with anxiety, depression, and attention or behavioral issues. Even if bullying is not the only factor involved in these symptoms, it is something that a therapist can help their client address.
Therapists may help their young client develop skills and techniques to ignore or stand up to bullies. They can teach a child particular social skills, such as how to interact with their peers in healthy, appropriate ways. The therapist may also help the student work on disordered behaviors that could make them a target of bullying. Young clients can also learn coping mechanisms to help them deal with the emotions associated with bullying.
Students who have been bullied may be afraid to ask for help. They may need guidance finding resources that can help them deal with bullying from others, or approach another adult about their experiences.
Speak with parents and families
Although therapists should maintain confidentiality even for young clients, they can still involve families in addressing bullying concerns. Therapists should also educate parents to help them understand the possible effects that bullying can have on their child.
One way to involve families is to inform them of the signs of bullying. They may be:
- Physical signs, such as torn clothes or unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior, such as skipping school, acting withdrawn, altered eating habits, and a struggle to make or keep friends
- Physical symptoms, such as stomach aches, headaches, or difficulty sleeping
Empower parents to take steps against bullying. If possible, suggest how they can discuss the issue with teachers, school administrators, and other parents. Encourage them to practice anti-bullying measures, such as assertiveness exercises, that the therapist may have taught the child during their sessions.
Therapists may also serve as a community resource to help combat bullying. Behavioral health providers may partner with schools and other youth-focused organizations to empower students and address bullying behaviors.
Bullying can be a serious issue that has long-lasting effects on a student’s mental health. If your behavioral health practice works with young people, it is important to use the right tools to create an effective treatment plan.