Panel of youth experts offer insight on how to spot bullying

A panel of experts offered insight on how to determine if your child is being bullied and the age at which it is most common. (KRCG 13)

A panel of experts offered insight on how to determine if your child is being bullied and the age at which it is most common.

Dr. Laine Young-Walker, Chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MU Health Care said there are a few social signs that hint a child may be a victim of bullying.

The psychiatrist said signs of being victimized include a child isolating themselves, no longer associating with friends. There may be a decline in their school work and grades. She said the child could also show signs of depression and anxiety, she adds there may even be signs of physical injuries.

Signs of bullying, how can you tell if your child is the victim

"Other activities they maybe flourished in before, they're participating in those less," Ron Rowe of the Youth Community Coalition said. "That's a big sign I think, when they're stopping from doing the things they like to do before," Ron said.

Dr. Joy Sweeney with the Council of Drug Free Youth said such behavior could be unexpected.

"Those changes in behavior sometimes happen overnight and it's very confusing as a parent," Sweeney said.

The panel explained communication is important between a parent and a child because bullying can happen at any age.

"I think as a parent you really need to be in communication with your children no matter what their age is," Young-Walker said. "That starts when they're very young," she said.

She explained creating an open relationship helps a child feel comfortable so they know they can come to their parent if they have an issue.

"We're seeing that bullying is occurring for kids who are middle-schoolers, teenagers, even elementary school children are experiencing it to some degree," Young-Walker said.

"No age is immune," Sweeney added.

Sweeney said sometimes it plays out a bit more in the middle school age because of maturity levels. She mentioned she noticed a trend in more aggressive bullying in kids who are of middle school age. She also adds that in elementary school it's a little bit more subtle.

Rowe said it's because of the need for belonging explaining the need plays a huge role for a child.

"I think it's something that we as adults we kind of get away from that," Rowe said. "We forget how important that is but belongingness with their peers, it's almost like food or shelter or clothing as far as essential need."

He said this need for belonging can contribute to a bullying situation.

"They don't feel a connection with their peers, they feel the opposite," he said about a child who could be getting bullied.

He said this need is something he takes into account with his work. He said it's also a sign parents should pay close attention to in order to determine or recognize if their child is getting bullied.

Young-Walker explained the need to belong increases in middle school years. At that age, the reliance on one's parents also slows down.

"It seems more prevalent in the middle school years because students are transitioning from being dependent on the parent to being dependent on their peers," Sweeney explained. "They don't have the life skills yet or the maturity to cope with the problems that they're faced with and so many of them internalize this."

"A day in the life of a middle schooler is their life," Sweeney explained.

Young-Walker said the line between determining if your child is sensitive or if they're being bullied doesn't matter which way or the other.

"If your child is coming to you, you have to listen to them," she said. "Their reality is reality."

She said a child's decision to come to their parent is important, and hearing about your child's troubles can help a parent make a bigger decision.

"Do you take it to the school? Do you talk with maybe the teacher to help?" she said.

"Sometimes it may not be what someone may label as bullying but it may be severely impairing that child's ability to function. Then, it has to be addressed."

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