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Developments in the field of Child and Youth Care

Confronting Bullying as a Parent

More than 5.7 million young people are involved in bullying, either by being bullied or acting as the bully themselves, according to The National Youth Violence Prevention Network. Parents can help their children and teenagers by knowing the warning signs that their child is being bullied or bullying others, how to talk about this issue and how much influence parents have.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and Magellan Health Services is calling attention to mental health and bullying for its second annual Take Mental Health To Heart campaign. Magellan has partnered with The Jed Foundation, the nation's leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students and young adults, to raise awareness about the mental health effects of bullying and encourage people to take responsibility for building a bully-free community. Throughout the month, Magellan and The Jed Foundation will share information about bullying from the perspective of the victim, the bully, parents and bystanders.

Talking About Bullying

Children learn early--from television, books and magazines, music, the Internet and interactions with their peers and family--how to treat and respect other people. Parents are the most powerful role models, and their actions mold a child's attitudes about many things, including acceptable social behavior. When talking to children about bullying, parents must be as open and honest as possible, carefully listening to them and acknowledging that they understand the youth's feelings. Parents should also watch for signs that a child may be the victim of bullying, may be bullying others, or may be disturbed by having witnessed a bullying incident.

"Whether a child is being bullied or is bullying others, either is a clear sign that something is wrong," says Gary Henschen, M.D., chief medical officer for behavioral health at Magellan. "Children and young adults respond to bullying differently, so any significant changes in behavior - from acting out and being disruptive, to becoming more reserved or isolated - may be a sign that bullying is at work."

Signs that a child is being bullied at school may include:
• Unexplainable injuries
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books and electronics
• Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick or faking illness
• Changes in eating habits, such as suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
• Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

Signs that a child may be bullying others include:
• Physical or verbal fights
• Having friends who bully others
• Increasingly aggressive behavior
• Frequent reprimands, such as being sent to the principal's office or to detention
• Having unexplained money or new belongings
• Blaming others for their problems

"As they age and become more independent, youth also become clever at concealing the fact that something is bothering them," said Victor Schwartz, M.D., medical director for The Jed Foundation. "It's important to have a regular open dialogue, be watchful for unexplained behavior changes and continue to model good problem-solving behaviors."

News feature: Magellan Health Services
16 May 2012


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