Monday, May 13, 2013

Is My Child a Target of Bullying?

     The second player in the bullying tragedy is the bullied or the target. This person is also called a victim. Use of the terms victim and target are often used interchangeably but carry very different connotations. A victim refers to someone who suffers at the hands of another; a passive role. A target refers to a person who is the aim of an attack by a hostile entity; a more empowered role as there is not the connotation of suffering per say. The target of a bully is often selected strategically because he/she is different in some way. Often times kids with special needs are targets of bullies because they are different than the "norm."
     Kids who are bullied often to not volunteer their experiences to another person and more often than not adults do not notice. How is it possible that bullying is happening under the nose of an adult and no one knows? Believe it or not it is possible and highly likely.  Targets do not report bullying instances to an adult because of several reasons, including feeling ashamed, fear of retaliation, thinking no one can or will help, and even believing being bullied is a part of the natural part of growing up. While kids do not directly tell about their experience, they do send warning signs. Knowing what to look for is critical in helping identify and address bullying. Then, listen beyond the words and look beyond the fake smiles and nervous laughter.
     A sudden disinterest in or refusal to go to school is a primary warning sign that something is wrong. In addition, a sudden drop in grades can communicate a problem as it is hard for a target to focus on school. Frequent medical complaints, such as headaches, stomach-aches, extreme fatigue, and even onset of panic attacks are signs. The body responds to stress by turning on the chemical defense system which causes an increase in adrenaline for its "fight" or "flight" responses. This increase in adrenaline keeps the body in high gear until there is a mental and physical break down which leaves the body exhausted. Another common warning sign is when the target acts out of character, such as talking about peers in a derogatory way, wearing clothing that is messy or torn, or even getting into trouble at school for behaviors that were never a problem before.
     Consider the poem "Don't Laugh at Me" by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin and use it as a discussion point with your children.

Don't laugh at me, don't call me names.
Don't take your pleasure from my pain.
I'm a little boy with glasses
The one they call a geek.
A little girl who never smiles
'Cause I have braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep.
I'm that kid on every playground
Who's always chosen last
A single teenage mother
Try'n to overcome my past.
You don't have to be my friend
But is it too much to ask: Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain...
Don't laugh at me I'm fat, I'm thin, I'm short, I'm tall
I'm deaf, I'm blind, hey aren't we all.


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