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Bullying and what every parent should know to help protect their children B

y some estimates over 13 million children this year will be bullied in the United States. It is a pervasive public health problem. As our children head back to school in the next few weeks, this topic is even more relevant. Over the past decade, media coverage has increased, bringing with it a spotlight on this very serious issue. From a seventh grader in Minnesota Rachel Ehmke who took her own life after being repeatedly bullied to Jamey Rodemeyer from western New York who committed suicide after bullying from his classmates who made a YouTube video prior to his death. Whether at school or on the playground, at a park or even in your own home, children sometimes find themselves the target of bullies. Social media which has been quite promising at bringing old classmates together, people sharing similar interests, some would even say helpful in the uprising of common people against dictatorships in the middle East dubbed “the Arab Spring” has also brought with it vicious attacks and tauntings between our own children. Bullying no longer is a “school issue” but now much more of a “community issue.” As a pediatrician I care for children fairly frequently who have complaints from headaches and abdominal pain to anxiety caused by bullying. I see children who instead of attending school are home schooled, or do on-line schooling because of social issues caused by bullying. The purpose of this article is to define bullying, and determine some steps that we can do as parents, and family members, to help our children avoid bullying, but if being bullied, steps that can help rectify this event. We need to understand bullying is different than fighting. Bullies have power over other children. They intimidate children, which turns our children into victims. Bullying often happens when other children are present and watching. This is an important point. We are all in this together and if we teach our own children to stick up for others (even when they are not the victim or target) it sets a standard that should they unfortunately become the target, others are more likely to stick up for them.

5. Teach your child to speak firmly and loudly, looking the bully in the eye, to have them stand tall and stay calm. 6. Teach your child it is okay to walk away from a situation that may turn violent. 7. Teach your child to speak up for others who may be too fearful to speak for themselves. 8. Encourage your child to make friends with others; support their activities and interests. By participating in team sports and social clubs, your child can develop new abilities and social skills. When children feel confident in themselves and how they relate to others, they are less likely to be picked on. A child who has loyal friends is less likely to be singled out by a bully, and also have allies to help them in a difficult situation. This Industry Insight was written by Dr. Damian Ternullo. Dr. Ternullo attended medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. While a medical student, he was awarded a military scholarship and completed his pediatric training at the San Antonio Military Pediatric Center. As an active duty pediatrician, he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served as a Battalion Surgeon for soldiers of 3-7 Infantry. Upon completion of his active duty tour, he moved back to Pittsburgh where he joined Pediatric Alliance St. Clair. Dr. Ternullo is also a Pediatric Hospitalist at St. Clair Hospital. His medical interests include ADHD, concussions and adolescent care.

There are 3 types of bullying • Physical (hitting, kicking, pushing, choking, punching) • Verbal (threatening, taunting, teasing, hate speech) • Social (excluding victims from activities or starting rumors) Key points to help our children • Communicate with your child. • How are things at school? What do you think of other kids in your class? Is anyone getting picked on or bullied? Develop a plan for your children to respond 1. First, they need to tell a teacher, school administrator, bus driver as well as you. Many children are embarrassed and it is important to let them know it isn’t their fault. 2. Call the school, speak with the counselor, and ask what the school is doing to help. School systems now have dedicated plans to help deal with this issue. One of them, called Olweus (pronounced Olvayus), has numerous published articles in regards to its effectiveness. 3. It is important to find out what the school’s policy is on internet/ social network bullying. 4. It is perfectly okay to have students speak up and stick up for themselves. No child has the right to injure or intimidate another child. Practice this with them, e.g., “Stop now!” “I’ll talk to you but I won’t fight!” Upper St. Clair | Fall 2012 | 35