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Tips and tactics to bully-proof your children

Bullying has escalated to new heights and parents are concerned

bullyingJimmy is feigning illness again today. Why? So he doesn’t have to go to school. According to NoBully.org, Jimmy is among the estimated 160,000 children who refuse to go to school because they dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers. Equally worrisome is that, in all likelihood, there are even more students who go to school in a chronic state of anxiety.
The reality is that bullying is not reserved for kids who may be considered loners, outcasts, or nerds. The reigning Miss Florida, 20-year-old Jaclyn Raulerson of Plant City recalls being physically attacked on the playground and at sleepovers. In sixth grade she missed thirty days in one semester to avoid being bullied. “I was lucky. I was able to transfer schools, but I realize that not every kid has that opportunity,” says Raulerson. “I understand that there needs to be awareness raised about bullying. I experienced it. My brother experienced it.” In fact, the blond and beautiful University of Central Florida junior feels so strongly about the issue that she’s made anti-bullying her platform as Miss Florida. Throughout her reign, Raulerson will be taking her anti-bullying message to the streets– visiting schools and encouraging kids not to turn a blind eye on bullying when it happens to their peers.
Experts advise parents to explain to their children the difference between tattling and telling.  Kids should be encouraged to tell their parents, a teacher, or another adult if they’re having a problem, and parents should let the school know when they have legitimate safety concerns.  Give children support, and insist they use the buddy system to and from school, as well as, in the neighborhood.

Children can also give each other support in the fight against bullying.  In December, John Halligan, whose 13-year-old son Ryan took his own life after being bullied to the point of humiliation, made a series of appearances in Orlando. Following his son’s tragic death, Halligan became an anti-bullying advocate who goes to various schools to educate parents about the warning signs that he says he missed.  In the seven years since Ryan’s death, Halligan has visited 500 schools and given more than 1,000 presentations on bullying and suicide.
“People need to be made aware that bullying exists and taught how to deal with it,” Library Director and CEO Mary Anne Hodel points out. “Parents need to learn how to help their  children, and friends need to know how to help their friends.”  Hodel adds that addressing bullying takes a coordinated community effort, and that the library is pleased to play a role in educating people and fostering a sobering awareness of the magnitude of the problem.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jim West is one of the speakers for the library program series.  West believes that estimates on the number of kids who experience bullying are modest at best. “Half of all children are bullied in school and one in ten is bullied repeatedly, leading to depression, low self-esteem, and in some cases suicide,” he says. The counselor notes that parents need the tools to help build their children’s confidence, and teach them ways to cope with teasing to avoid the bully radar. “For far too long, society has viewed bullying as harmless child’s play. Fortunately, those attitudes are changing, as parents, students, and educators recognize the serious impact of bullying.”

Signs that your child is being bullied:

  • Becomes withdrawn, shy.
  • Displays less confidence.
  • Comes home with cuts and bruises.
  • Has unexplained loss of belongings.
  • Invents an illness to avoid going to school or after school care.
  • Exhibits a decline in school performance.
  • Becomes depressed, angry, unhappy.
  • Displays behavior changes, such as wetting the bed.
  • Shows aggression at home toward siblings and other family members.
  • Appears anxious.
  • Displays changes in eating habits.
  • Expresses fear of usual route to school.
  • Has difficulty with sleeping, nightmares.
  • Threatens or attempts suicide.

~Compiled from parenting sources

Orange County Library System
Program Series for March: March Against Bullying

The series includes everything from talks by mental health experts to anti-bullying puppet presentations and martial arts demonstrations.  Programs are held at multiple library locations.

Program: How to Keep Your Child Below the Bully Radar
by Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jim West
Date: Saturday, March 12
Time: 2pm
Location: Library Central at the Orlando Public Library, 101 E. Central Blvd.
Cost: Free, no reservation needed
This is a must-hear program for parents with school-aged kids.  A recognized expert on bullying, West has appeared on local and national TV/radio, including the Daily Buzz, Fox 35, Channel 13, NBC, and more.  He is president of Total Life Counseling Center and holds a master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University. Visit his website: www.totallifecounseling.com.

To learn more about West’s upcoming talk and other programs that are part of the March Against Bullying, call 407.835.7323 or visit www.ocls.info/bullying