Sticks and Stones—The Practical Side
The saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” could not be farther from the truth. After years of being a therapist, I continue to be astounded by the negative words my clients can remember others speaking over them—especially hurtful words they heard as children.
Words are powerful and once they are spoken they can never be taken back. Today, we live in a fast moving, highly connected society where words are spoken to us constantly—whether through a phone call, text, email, a social media platform or Skype. We are inundated with words and conversations– some invited, some not.
Sometimes the most painful words we hear as children—outside of our home environments—are those spoken to us by bullies. Bullying has increased in recent years as victims today are targeted not only in person at school, but online. Individuals who appear different due to their looks, abilities or sexual orientations are targeted most often.
To be clear, there is a difference between teasing and bullying. If you have ever spent time with a group of tween boys you will notice them playfully teasing each other about everything from their hairstyles to their jump shots. However, in these situations, teasing is playful, both sides are laughing and the exchange is mutual–almost like a rite of passage.
When bullying occurs, there is a power differential (the bully wields the power) and the exchange is not playful in any way. The victim may be left out at school, called names, have rumors spread about him/her and/or be targeted online. Bullying may also become physical and involve pushing, pulling or hitting.
It goes without saying that being bullied can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Children who are bullied and also have a mental health or substance abuse issue are at an increased risk of suicide if being bullied. And alarmingly, per www.webmd.com, only about 25% of kids who are being bullied tell their parents. They suffer in silence.
If your child is reluctant to go to school, has few friends, seems depressed or anxious or has unexplained cuts or bruises, you should have a conversation with them about what school is like for them and if anyone there (or online) is bullying them. Online bullying has become increasingly common and you should also assess whether your child is being targeted in this way. The dinner table is a great place to hold this conversation.
If you are worried that your child is being bullied or feel that they are struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue, please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health therapists. Don’t wait! You are your child’s most important advocate and help is available. We look forward to speaking with you.