Do you remember hearing “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”
Research shows that this age-old saying simply isn’t true. Often, the physical impact of bullying (the “sticks and stones”) is easy to recognize, such as a child getting up after being pushed, damaged personal items, or having torn clothing.
However, bullying often impacts our children in ways that aren›t so obvious. While words don’t physically injure, they do still hurt, and can cause emotional harm. Verbal and emotional bullying, such as teasing and social exclusion, as well as physical bullying, have the potential to negatively impact a student’s overall health, along with their sense of well-being.
Areas of concern regarding a student’ emotional and physical health can include:
headaches and stomachaches (that may be an excuse to miss school or a very real physical result of bullying),
loss of self-confidence,
It’s also important to note that not every child who experiences bullying demonstrates any signs. The impact bullying has on a child isn’t always something you can physically see, such as a bruise or constant complaints of a stomachache.
As a parent or educator, recognizing changes in the child’s behavior or habits could be a sign they are experiencing bullying. Being bullied hurts, often both physically and emotionally.
For so long, bullying has been considered a natural part of childhood and something that will make kids tougher. The truth is that there is nothing natural about bullying. Physical or emotional aggression towards others should not be tolerated as a normal part of childhood. Bullying does not make someone tougher; research shows it often has the opposite effect. It can have both short- and long-term effects for students, one of which being leading to physical and mental health problems. The result of physical bullying can be easier to recognize, causing bruises, damaged personal items, or torn clothing. However, all forms of bullying can impact a student’s health beyond these physical results.
One area of concern when it comes to bullying and health problems is headaches and stomachaches. While this may be a common “excuse” students use to avoid going to school, this can also be a real physical consequence of bullying. When students feel anxiety about going to school, or have changes in eating and sleeping patterns due to the impact of bullying, this can cause physical health issues – not just an excuse to avoid class.
Along with physical health problems, bullying can also lead to mental health problems, such as low self-esteem, increased fear and anxiety, or depression. When students are being mistreated, it can be hard to feel good about themselves. We often hear from students that bullying can make them believe the hurtful words being said, that the bullying is their fault, and that they deserve what’s happening – all of which is never true. Along with affecting a student’s health, bullying can also impact a student’s sense of well-being, leading to isolation, increased aggression, self-harm, a feeling of alienation at school, and retaliation.
As a parent or educator, these concerns can be warning signs to look for when recognizing bullying: Is your child not wanting to go to school in the morning, complaining of a headache or stomachache? Have you noticed your child no longer wants to participate in afterschool activities or clubs they once enjoyed? Has your child’’ personality seemed to change, such as becoming more anxious or angry?
Changes in your child’s behavior or habits could be a sign they are experiencing bullying – although not every child who experiences bullying demonstrates any signs. If you suspect your child is experiencing bullying, but they have not confided in you about it, try asking your child open-ended questions that allows them to lead the conversation. Learn more about their day at school by asking questions such as:
How was your bus ride today?
Who do you sit with at lunch?
Have you ever seen anyone being mean to someone else at recess?
You seem to be feeling sick a lot and want to stay home. Would you tell me about that?
Are there a lot of cliques at school? What do you think about them?
Do you ever feel unsafe at school?
The impact bullying has on a child isn’t always something you can physically see, like a bruise or constant complaints of a stomachache. As a parent or educator, recognizing changes in your child’s behavior or habits could be a sign they are experiencing bullying. Being bullied hurts, often both physically and emotionally. The overall impact to a child’s health is why it’s essential to have the conversation about bullying with your child early and often – whether you suspect they are experiencing it or not.
If your child does share with you that they are experiencing bullying, listen to them. Find out as much as you can about the situation and work together to develop an action plan. Learn more about how to start this conversation with your child here.
Posted March, 2018
Bullying and Mental Health | PACERTalks About Bullying: Season 2, Episode 10
Bullying impacts more than just a student’s education, it can also affect their emotional health and well-being. In this video, Dr. Barry Garfinkel, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, talks about the impact of bullying, signs children may demonstrate, and tips for parents on supporting their child.
Bullying and Its Impact | PACERTalks About Bullying: Season 2, Ep. 11
Have you ever heard “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Research has shown that this old saying simply isn’t true. Words can hurt, and bullying can leave a lasting impact. On this week’s episode of PACERTalks About Bullying, middle school students share their thoughts about bullying and its impact, they had some amazing insight to share.
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Founded in 2006, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center actively leads social change to prevent childhood bullying, so that all youth are safe and supported in their schools, communities, and online.