Dealing with school bullies

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; August 18, 2011

Getting a child ready for school means more than new shoes, a backpack, and a lunch box. It is also important to prepare a child emotionally.

And one of the most common emotional hurdles kids face these days is bullying.

"Bullying has become more prevalent, and the reason I say that is because we now have cyberbullying," says Yuma Tomes, Ph.D., of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Tomes, a school psychologist and professor, says bullies aren't just limited to the schoolyard anymore, and kids of any age or place can fall victim.

But there signs adults can look for:

*For teachers: Is the student engaged in class - or is he or she withdrawn? Bullied kids tend to isolate themselves.

* For parents: Does your child make friends in class? And what kind of information do they share about their school contacts?

"If you hear a student mentioning a name over and over again, and when they mention that name, anxiety begins to rise in that student, that also could be an indicator," says Dr. Tomes.

These days, nearly every child is "wired" to the electronic world in their school and social lives.

But parents should keep an eye on how the technology being used.

Dr. Tomes says it could be a sign of cyberbullying.

"When your son or daughter arrives home, do they automatically go to their computer, or go to the cell phone?"

Boys who bully will be physically aggressive, but girls will be cyberbullies more often.

If you think your child is being bullied, document any suspicious- type events, or changes in your child's emotions & behavior.

Then go to the school principal.

"One of the ways you can craft this is - because I want the best for my son as far as his or her academic ability. This may by impeding their ability to learn," he says.

Dr. Tomes says it's important to understand that bullies have usually been bullies themselves.

"We in psychology talk about 'hurt people hurt people,'" he notes. "So they are inflicting their aggression onto another individual."

A child could be a bully if:

*Do they talk about others in a negative way? Do they talk about doing something to someone else?

*Do they have difficulty making friends? Do other children avoid them?

He says parents should set the tone for the school year now. Let your child know you are on their side.

And don't feel like you are "interfering." Protecting your child is a parent's job.

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