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Backpacks and Bullies. Is Your Child Prepared?

As the flurry of Back to School activities subside, parents are left to ponder more pressing issues than notebooks, backpacks, and sneakers.

Will my child succeed this year? Will his academic and social growth meet my hopes and expectations? Have I done everything I can to make this possible?

If you haven't prepared your child for the school bully, not only could your dreams and aspirations end in failure, but your child could fall victim to the violence, and suffer long-lasting repercussions.

Make no mistake; bullying is a form of violence. Experts estimate that almost 75% of today's youth will be involved in some aspect of bullying before they enter high school. And chances are, your child will be among the statistics.

Humiliation, fear, anxiety and depression are the constant companions of a child that is bullied. It can lead to harmful, shocking and unexpected behavior from an otherwise shy or timid child.

Victims feel ashamed and tend to view themselves as failures. They are more prone to stress related illnesses such as headaches and stomachaches. In extreme cases, the victim of a bully can experience sever depression and entertain thoughts of suicide.

Lack of safety is one of the top concerns of young people, and bullying is a real and constant threat. A child's emotional development is just as important, if not more so, than academic development. In fact, a safe, healthy emotional environment is essential to academic growth and success.

How do you prepare your child for the school bully?

Become involved and make certain your school has active anti-bullying policies in place. Disciplinary guidelines, procedures for investigating and reporting incidences of bullying, adequate supervision, and an immediate plan of action to address reports of bullying are key elements to a successful program.

Teach your child to walk tall and proud and to maintain eye contact. Portraying a positive, self-confident stature will help your child cope in many areas.

Be certain to compliment your child and gently encourage changes that will bolster self-esteem. Use positive words that validate his or her rights as a person.

Use role-playing techniques to illustrate proper responses to negative situations. This will build strength, courage and provide your child with valuable emotional resources to pull from in times of trouble.

Help your child to identify role models, from sports heroes to everyday man. Discuss the obstacles and accomplishments they endured, focusing on the resilient human spirit.

Read stories together that inspire. Discuss how strength of character and perseverance can achieve a positive outcome without resorting to violence or force.

Encourage your child to keep a diary or journal, write poetry or songs. Writing provides a safe outlet for your child and creativity and self-expression are helpful tools used to work through negative issues.

If your child has difficulties making or maintaining friends, intervene 'friendships are a protection against bullying. Identify children that might have things in common with your child and arrange a visit.

Encourage your child to join activities both in and out of school that will result in friendships while building strength and confidence.

But most important, don't diminish your child's concern over a classmate's taunting and teasing, it could very well lead to damaging repercussions. Instead, prepare your child for the bully by empowering him with confidence and self-esteem through your words, actions and embrace.

Patricia Gatto and John De Angelis are the authors of MILTON'S DILEMMA, the tale of a lonely boy's magical journey to friendship and self-acceptance. As advocates for literacy and children's rights, the authors speak at schools and community events to foster awareness and provide children with a safe and healthy learning environment. For more information, please visit Joyful Productions at http://www.joyfulproductions.com

pgatto@ptd.net


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