Back-to-school means homework, fun with friends and extracurricular activities. But with the return of the school year comes something else – the risk for bullying. Whether it’s “cyber,” physical, verbal or emotional, bullying is a serious and growing problem all over the country, even in our own backyard.
The stress of dealing with bullies can make a child feel sick and not want to play outside, socialize with friends or go to school. The Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Kosair Children’s Hospital is stepping in to educate students on better ways to resolve conflicts.
Therese Sirles, R.N., director, Office of Child Advocacy, and her staff have taught a 10-week course on the topic of bullying at select schools in the Jefferson County Public Schools district. The educational curriculum was developed by Timir Banerjee, M.D., executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Aggressiveness and Violence Among Adolescents (SPAVA). Dr. Banerjee also is a retired neurosurgeon who now practices as a Norton Immediate Care Center physician.
“The students learn about character building, self-esteem and, of course, ways to deal with bullies in a more effective and peaceful manner,” Sirles said. “They are given ‘real life’ situations and asked to role-play as a part of the class.”
As an instructor, Sirles teaches techniques that can help both victims and bullies. “Students practice using the STAR (Stop, Think, Act, Review) method to control anger,” she said. “We teach the students that stepping back and having ‘self-talk’ before reacting can prevent bad situations from happening.”
Sirles has seen many examples of children who have changed their behavior as a result of the SPAVA course. “I’ve read letters from students about how the course has helped them,” she said. “Many of them wrote that they show more respect as well as control their anger and stand up for others who are bullied.”
These skills have the potential to affect children for the rest of their lives. “If students develop these skills at a young age, they can become good role models and leaders in the future,” Sirles said.
For more information on helping your child cope with bullying, call the Office of Child Advocacy at (502) 629-7358.
Signs of bullying
Unless your child tells you he or she is being bullied, it can be difficult to detect. Warning signs to watch for include:
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- Not participating in normal activities like riding the bus or sports
- Crying easily, moodiness
- Frequently says he/she doesn’t feel well and asks to stay home from school
- Loss of interest in schoolwork, noticeable decline in grades