Bullying is one of the most pervasive dangers facing our children. In our previous post, we defined bullying per the American Association Of Pediatrics (AAP) and worked through the specific ways to identify the signs and symptoms of bullying. In this second part of the bullying discussion we will go over the consequences of bullying, and how childcare specialists and educators can effectively intervene to end childhood bullying.
According to the AAP bullying can result in varying consequences and may be different in severity. The most basic and immediate consequence of bullying is obviously the fear created in the victim. The most common site of bullying is at school but may be extended to other locations where children interact with their peers and are navigating social structures. Many victims will spend a large part of their school life in fear accompanied by intermittent or permanent anxiety as a result of the unreported bullying that they experience. Fear often leads victims to feel depressed and experience an extremely low self-esteem, which when combined with the physiological changes happening through puberty, can have such permanent and dangerous consequences.
Over time victims may start showing a decline in their school performance as a result of the anxiety and fear they are experiencing at school. They may show less interest in making friends and have a social life, and they may even become reluctant to go to school if that is the primary site posing a bullying threat to them. One study shows that 7% of American eighth graders will stay home at least once a month to avoid bullying.
This avoidance is in no way unwarranted and is a logical self-preservation tactic – in severe cases, bullying can result in undue violence, and even suicide or murder.
Children are often incredibly close to their nannies, caretakers, and educators, and the influence that we can have in their lives is an incredible honor and vital responsibility. Armed with this knowledge of the signs and symptoms to look for, we can play a hugely positive role in identifying and protecting both victims and perpetrators.
Here is how nannies, childcare specialists, and educators can help prevent bullying:
Being extremely close to the children we’re caring for and spending significant time with them in their social environments, it is our duty as caretakers to pay close attention. We must remain diligent in looking out for signs of bullying, both in victims and perpetrators. We have the honor and huge responsibility to genuinely invest in our charges. When they open up to us we need to be fully present and actively listen to their thoughts, dreams, funny ideas, worries, and fears. We’re spending so many tender and vulnerable moments with our kids, and the more that we affirm to them that we are unwavering in our support for them, the more likely that when they are in trouble and working to navigate the intricacies of childhood social constructs, they will confide in us, reach out to us, and we will be more quickly and effectively able to step in to protect, support, and guide them.
Once you have clearly identified the victim and perpetrator in a bullying situation, it is time to intervene, take action and correct the situation. Informing the parents of your observations is your first step. Following their lead is the next step, but be armed with some ideas of how to appropriately intervene. For instance, counseling is so important for both parties. Victims must be followed by therapy to restore their self-confidence and sense of security and control of their environment. If they were physically injured, they, of course, must be treated immediately and the parents informed right away. For mental health support, they can be referred to a professional psychiatrist or psychologist after an initial check-in with their pediatrician to ensure they are doing well moving forward. Again, these are decisions to be made by the parents, but you would do them a huge service by bringing your bullying concerns to them with solutions in-hand.
In the case of perpetrators, they must be guided to acknowledge that their behavior is unhealthy and totally unacceptable. Many bullies are able to unlearn this violent, intimidating behavior through the presence of a loving, reliable, affirming mentor. For others, more professional intervention may be required, just as in the case of victims.
As nannies, childcare specialists and educators, we spend a significant amount of time with children. If we are aware and observant, we can recognize and eliminate the dangerous and violent behaviors around bullying. It is not only our responsibility to recognize and prevent bullying among our charges, but it is also our duty to report it to the parents immediately and do all that we can to protect and nurture our most vulnerable.