We often hear about children who for years are bullied and excluded as a result of a physical, academic or behavioral difference.
In response to these stories, CHADD of Northern Virginia is hosting two sessions exploring bullying specifically the ADHD child and bullying. Here you can get information and advice on behaviors to look out for if you fear your child may be a bullying victim.
Bullying is such a common and age-old problem, but sometimes we marvel at how overlooked it can be. However, in the last decade we have seen a groundswell of attention to the scourge of bullying.
By attending one of these sessions you can give your child one important weapon in the battle against bullying: a strong, knowledgeable, supportive, loving family. Studies show that one of the protective influences in bullying dynamics is a strong supportive family and a good friendship network. Communication between family members is important. Victims of bullying are very reluctant to report it or talk about it. If communication with your child is poor to begin with, then the chance of detecting the bullying is poor.
It is of utmost importance that parents, schools and pediatricians familiarize themselves with the warning signs of bullying from children, either as the victim or aggressor. A parent should think of bullying as one of the possible causes of any change in their child’s functioning or behavior. Examples include a change in grades, depressed mood, and a change in sleep patterns, an increase in physical complaints (headaches, stomach upset, etc…) or perhaps a new attitude of school avoidance. As with many other public health problems, early detection and intervention of bullying can have a huge impact on outcome.
One insight we gathered with varying children’s stories involved the way in which they are bullied. Different than the aggressive, outward and sometimes physical bullying, some experienced shunning, otherwise known as exclusion. Shunning is one of the more prevalent forms of bullying. As human beings, we are all sensitive to being cast out of the group. Being socially isolated is painful. Shunning tactics are also more stealth and difficult to detect than physical bullying, like pushing, hitting or kicking.
Again, a good friendship group can help insulate your child from shunning. Keep tabs on how well your child is doing with regard to making and keeping friendships. Ask your child who he/she eats lunch with. Who does he hang out with at recess? Does she get invited to afterschool events like birthday parties? If you conclude that your child is, in fact, not doing well socially, this does not by itself mean that he or she is being bullied. But it should alert you to the fact that your child may be at risk. This will help you to be more vigilant and to pick up on bullying sooner rather than later should it occur.
If you are concerned that your child is being bullied, then you will likely need guidance as to the next step in helping your child. In Step can help guide you through the process of accessing help for you and your child.
It is important that we always remember that both the bully and the victim are kids who are still developing (teens included.) Though it’s not talked about as often, studies have shown that the bully is also at increased risk for mental health and legal trouble later in life. We need to be devoted to helping both bully and victim, and the earlier we intervene in the developmental process, the better the outcome.
Keep in mind that our efforts need to be more therapeutic than punishing. However, it is of utmost importance to protect the victim and to remember that bullying is a form of abuse. Bullying is NEVER the victim’s fault.
It’s important that we remember that many children do not make it through their bullying experiences without effects. Many suffer long-term psychological and medical effects including depression, sleep disorder, academic underachievement, poor self-control, inattention and headache, to name a few. And we are all aware of the tragic cases of bullying-related suicides that have captured national attention in recent years.
Unlike some public health problems, we won’t see a vaccine developed for bullying. Knocking this public health problem down will require vigilance, detection, early intervention and follow-up on a case-by-case basis. It will require a coordinated effort with parents, schools and pediatricians all working together. As with any public health effort, education about the problem, its warning-signs and the potential avenues of help is an important first step.
Please join us this October with CHADD to learn about bullying and your ADHD child. Cathi will be speaking on Thursday, October 20th at 7:30 pm at McLean High School and again on Wednesday, October 26 at 9:30 am. The topic: Bullying: Why Kids With ADHD Are Picked On and What To Do About It. This is a free event, sponsored by CHADD of Northern Virginia.