Know the difference between teasing and bullying

Know the difference between teasing and bullying

As Indianapolis students head back to school for the start of a new year, one of the biggest hot-button issues is bullying.

The topic has gained widespread attention after extensive media coverage around the nation, as 37 percent of teens report being bullied at school. Physical, emotional and cyber bullying is a serious problem for many youths and adults. For more information check out this Long-term Effects of Bullying infographic.

But where is the line between bullying and teasing?

That distinction is a bit complicated, according to Indianapolis psychologist Dr. Angela Tomlin in a blog post for Indiana University Health. While teasing can range from negative to friendly, learning to deal with gentle teasing is an important aspect of a child’s social development. On the other hand, bullying is never helpful and is defined as “physically or verbally aggressive behaviors that occur repeatedly and are specifically intended to hurt another.”

Just by reading the definition alone, one can see that bullying is a serious issue, and it’s been found that the aftereffects run much deeper than the fear of having lunch money stolen.

Bullied children are also more likely to:

1. Have lower grades in school
2. Be quick to anger
3. Have greater risk for depression and anxiety later in life
4. Have migraines
5. Have higher probability to abuse drugs and alcohol

So what can parents do to help their children who are being bullied?

Start early to prevent bullying: it’s important to start young and develop a sense of empathy in children, said Butler University's Brandie Oliver to Indianapolis news station WTHR. That empathy is key because, as it turns out, the effects of bullying can last long term, not only for the victims, but for the bullies themselves. "There is some link between bullying behavior and later violence, but we are just not certain how strong it is," said Dr. Carl Bell, Chicago psychiatrist, to ABC News.

Monitor for the warning signs: Parents should watch for changes in behavior of their child, including irritability, decreased appetite, trouble sleeping and avoidance of extracurricular activities. Additionally, they should be on the lookout for unexplained missing money or belongings, or a change in school performance, writes Tomlin.

Talk -- and listen -- to your child: If you think your child is being bullied or your child comes to you with bullying concerns, take time to talk and listen. Get the facts sorted out so you understand what the child is going through. Also, be careful not to blame the victim; instead, be supportive.

Give your child the tools he or she needs to peacefully fight bullying: Convey the message that violence is not the answer. Teach your child to walk away and how to approach a teacher about bullying concerns in a way that doesn’t come across as “tattling.”

Get help: Many schools are taking big steps to fight bullying and will be eager to help you and your child sort things out. Reach out to your child’s school, relaying facts about the bullying incidents rather than emotions. Work with your child’s school from there to get the problem worked out.

Seek guidance for helping your child through this tough time by talking with school personnel and a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.

Your support, along with the support of school personnel and mental health professionals, can help keep your child on track as he or she returns to class for the fall.

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