Strategies for Addressing Bullying
by K-12 School Counseling Program | Sunday, Oct 07, 2018
In recognition of National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month, during the month of October, ADHUS/FAUHS school counselors will be working to spread kindness, collaboration, and unity school-wide. Alarmingly, a 2018 national survey of over 160,000 students indicated that one out of three students report being bullied (YouthTruth, 2018). However, encouragingly a recent study found that when school counselors work to promote prosocial behaviors, enhance social-emotional skills, and create a safe, encouraging and caring school environment, bullying behaviors and aggression can be reduced (Mariani, Villares & Brigman, 2015). StopBullying.gov (2018), a federal initiative for bullying prevention, asserts that adults, including school staff and parents, can assist children and teens in preventing bullying by talking openly about it and by building a positive and safe school culture. In this newsletter, you will find information regarding what bullying is, and what is not, learn strategies for talking to your child/student about the topic, and additionally how to best respond when you suspect your child/student is being bullied.
What is bullying? What is it not?
According to StopBullying. Gov (2018), “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems ” (p. 1). There are various forms of bullying including verbal, social, physical and cyberbullying, all of which can have severe and negative impacts.
It is imperative for both adults and children to have the ability to distinguish between bullying from other hurtful, mean or harmful behaviors. For example, calling someone a name or pushing someone once, or having an interpersonal conflict with someone is not bullying. Certainly, these hurtful behaviors should always be addressed, but would likely be addressed with different interventions and consequences than bullying. Simply stated, in order for the mistreatment to be classified as bullying it the following components must be present:
repeated harmful actions or threats,
a power imbalance and,
intention to cause harm
With this in mind, as adults it is important to consider these factors before classifying incidents as bullying in our communication with our child or student. The overuse of the term “bullying” leads to desensitization, and can inadvertently take away from the seriousness of bullying and the attention that needs to be dedicated to students truly impacted by repeated cruel treatment. Overuse of the term bullying can also impact students learning the appropriate coping skills and conflict resolution skills necessary to successful overcome minor conflicts.
Recognize the warning signs
As parents and educators it’s crucial to know what signs to look for. If your child displays any sort of emotional or behavioral changes, this could be a sign that they are involved in bullying.
Signs a Child is Being Bullied:
Declining grades; loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school; frequent complaints of somatic symptoms (i.e. headache, stomach aches) sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations; sudden increase in use of technology or social media.
Signs a Child is Bullying Others
Have unexplained extra money or new belongings; have friends who bully others; are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity; get into physical or verbal fights.
How to talk about bullying with your child/student?
Elementary: At the elementary level, education on what bullying is, and what it is not, is very important. At this age, children often don’t understand how to decipher between someone being rude or mean, and someone bullying them. Thus, a kid friendly way of describing bullying to your child is:
“Bullying is when someone is being hurt either by words or actions on purpose, usually more than once, feels bad because of it, and has a hard time stopping what is happening to them” (PACER Center, 2018).
As parents and educators, we want to provide children with the tools and skills necessary to effectively manage friendships and interpersonal conflicts. If we proactively teach children conflict resolution skills, self-advocacy skills, and prosocial behaviors, we work to prevent bullying behaviors from occuring. please encourage your students to tell a trusting adult if they are experiencing bullying or know of someone else who is being bullied. If in school, encourage your students to tell their teachers. Their teachers will get the appropriate adult involved in order to further investigate. Be open with your children and encourage them to engage in appropriate forms of conflict resolution for situations that are not bullying, such as arguing or not sharing, where they can use their own conflict resolution skills and ask an adult if help is needed.
According to the site Together Against Bullying (2018), young children can have difficulty telling the difference between teasing and bullying:
Teasing is playful, good-natured and goes back and forth. Bullying is one-sided.
Teasing makes up a small part of the relationship. Bullying defines the relationship.
Teasing stops when the child tells the other person they do not like it. Bullying continues even after the victim asks for it to stop.
Middle School: Parents play a major role in preventing and responding to bullying (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). If you know or suspect your child is involved in bullying, there are many ways you can help. Below are some strategies on how parents can help prevent bullying:
Know who your child’s friends are and talk to them each day about how their day at school was.
Roleplay helpful ways to handle bullying with your child. Make sure they know they can talk to you as well as a trusted adult at school (counselor, teacher, assistant principal, etc.) if they feel they are being mistreated by a peer.
Be Aware of What Your Kids are Doing Online
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying. It’s important to monitor your child’s digital footprint and talk to them about the importance of their behavior online. While one can argue that there are benefits of social media for teens, the costs are very high during the teen years (Dunckley, 2018). A tween’s underdeveloped frontal cortex in the brain have a hard time managing the distractions and temptations that come with social media use.
If you believe your child is being bullied online, talk about with your child, document what is happening and where, and support your child during this time. If a classmate is cyber bullying your child, report it to both your child’s assistant principal as well as school counselor as soon as possible.
High School: Though bullying is said to decrease in high school, research findings are conflicting (Gundersen Health System, 2018), and the decrease may be attributed internalizing behaviors of teenagers and a greater stigma surrounding reporting bullying in this age group. At this age, parents and educators will likely notice an increase in social media use and use of technology, and with this comes the increased potential for cyberbullying. With this in mind, it is helpful for adults to be mindful of changes in teens behavior including becoming more isolated from family and friends, loss of interest in enjoyed activities or friends, increased use of technology and social media, declines in grades or attendance, frequent complaints of somatic symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, sleep disturbances and/or changes in appetite. If these signs are recognized, parents and teachers should reach out to the teen and talk about bullying and mistreatment openly and without judgement. Discuss with your teen how they are feeling and reacting. To provide them with a sense of control support them in creating a step-by-step action plan for addressing the bullying. Finally, encourage your teen to see their school counselor to process through their experiences and seek support.
What to do if you suspect your child is being bullied
If you suspect child is being bullied, ask the following questions:
What is happening? When is this happening? Where is this happening? How often? How many times?
Have you told the person(s) to stop? If so, what happened after that?
Have you tried to walk away? If so, what did happened after that?
Have you told an adult at school such as a teacher or counselor?
**Encourage your child to seek a trusted adults support. Is this something the teacher can resolve in the classroom? The teacher will be able to determine when and if the school counselor and/or assistant principal should be involved. Of course, your child can always seek the support of the counselors, administration, or ANY trusted school staff for support.
Check your knowledge: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/parents/helping-your-child.asp
Inform School Staff - If based off the information gathered from these questions, you suspect your child is a target of bullying, please contact your child’s school counselor.
School-wide Bullying Prevention Initiatives: October 2018
October 22 - 26th - Unity Week: Owls Unite Against Bullying- #OwlsUnite
October 24th - Student & Staff Unity Badges
October 26th - Unite against bullying: Wear Orange!
Students can wear any orange shirt
Bullying awareness and prevention lessons for all students through classroom guidance
Mariani, M., Webb, L., Villares, E., & Brigman, G. (2015). Effect of participation in Student Success Skills on
prosocial and bullying behavior. Professional Counselor , 5 (3), 341–353.
StopBullying.Gov (2018). What is bullying? . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from
Gunder Health System (2018). Together against bullying: Become an upstander. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). What you can do – parents. Retrieved from
V. Dunckley (2018). Why social media is not smart for middle school kids. Retrieved from
YouthTruth (2018). YouthTruth student survey: How do student experience bullying?. Retrieved from