BulliesTarget Kids with Health Concerns

Bullies often pick on kids with health issues such as allergies and weight problems. Bullies make cruel comments, threaten and tease them about their conditions.

Two studies looking at kids with food allergies and kids going through weight-loss programs reported:

  • Eyal Shemesh, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues found that almost 32% of kids with food allergies reported bullies harassing them  about their allergy, which often involved threats with food.

  • Rebecca Puhl, PhD, of Yale University, and colleagues reported on a study where 64% of teens at weight-loss camps reported weight-related victimization by bullies who were not not just schoolmates but often friends, coaches, teachers, and parents too.

Shemesh’s group analyzed surveys of 251 established food allergy patients, ages 8 to 17, and their parents at a single allergy clinic in the Enhancing, Managing, and Promoting Well-Being and Resiliency program.

Any bullying or harassment of these kids was reported by 45% of them and 36% of their parents, although with poor agreement when related to reasons other than the food allergy.

Being victimized due specifically to food allergies accounted for most of these cases, with 32% of the food allergic kids and about 25% of their parents reporting such bullying.

Almost all the bullies were classmates (80%), and most bullying happened at school (60%).

The most common form was teasing (42%), followed by waving the allergen in front of the child (30%).

Notably, 12% had been forced to touch the food they are allergic to and 10% had food thrown at them by the bullies.

Bullying was significantly associated with poorer quality of life scores and greater anxiety, which the researchers noted was independent of allergy severity. While most of the kids taunted by bullies said they had told someone about what happened, parents knew in only about half of the cases.

To increase disclosure of bullying, “Clinicians might consider asking a screening question about bullying during encounters with children with a food allergy,” Shemesh’s group suggested.

While it’s hard to compare the results with those of other studies, general population rates appear to be 17% to 35%, suggesting that food-allergic kids may be bullied or harassed more than their peers, they pointed out.

picture of bullies making fun of overweight boyPuhl’s study included 361 kids, ages 14 to 18, surveyed online while at two national weight-loss camps.

34% of the respondents were in the normal weight range, while 24% were overweight and 40% were obese.

The large proportion of healthy-weight kids was unexpected, but “program administrators confirmed that a portion of enrollees had experienced significant weight loss and returned to camp for support with weight-loss maintenance.”

The likelihood of weight-based victimization rose with weight, with odds ratios of 8.7 for overweight and 11.7 for obese kids, although those of a normal weight after weight-loss treatment still were at some risk.

The most common form was verbal teasing (75% to 88%), followed by relational victimization (74% to 82%), cyberbullying (59% to 61%), and physical aggression (33% to 61%).

While bullies can be found most anywhere, these studies found that bullying behavior came most frequently from:

  • Peers: 92%

  • Friends: 70%

  • Physical education teachers or sport coaches: 42%

  • Parents: 37%

  • Teachers: 27%

“For those youth who are targets of weight-based victimization at school and at home, healthcare providers may be among their only remaining allies,” researchers reported. “Thus, it can be especially helpful for providers to promote adaptive coping strategies (e.g., positive self-talk, social support, problem-focused coping) during patient visits with youth who are targets of weight-based victimization.”

Both groups of researchers acknowledged the limitation of self-reported data about bullies without independent verification or a control group and that their sample populations may not have been representative of the general population.

Source: Pediatrics (online)

 

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Bullying Prevention Begins with Young Children

bullyingBullying is a national epidemic. Bullying can have long term serious outcomes.

stopbulling.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services shares the following information on beginning bullying prevention in early childhood.

Early Childhood

Early childhood often marks the first opportunity for young children to interact with each other. Between the ages of 3 and 5, kids are learning how to get along with each other, cooperate, share, and understand their feelings.

Young children may be aggressive and act out when they are angry or don’t get what they want, but this is not bullying. Still, there are ways to help children.

Helping Young Children Get Along with Others

Parents, school staff, and other adults can help young children develop skills for getting along with others in age-appropriate ways.

  • Model positive ways for young children to make friends. For example, practice pleasant ways that children can ask to join others in play and take turns in games. Coach older children to help reinforce these behaviors as well. Praise children for appropriate behavior. Help young children understand what behaviors are friendly.
  • Help young children learn the consequences of certain actions in terms they can understand. For example, say “if you don’t share, other children may not want to play with you.” Encourage young children to tell an adult if they are treated in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset or unhappy, or if they witness other children being harmed.
  • Set clear rules for behavior and monitor children’s interactions carefully. Step in quickly to stop aggressive behavior or redirect it before it occurs.
  • Use age-appropriate consequences for aggressive behavior. Young children should be encouraged to say “I’m sorry” whenever they hurt a peer, even accidentally. The apology should also be paired with an action. For example, young children could help rebuild a knocked over block structure or replace a torn paper or crayons with new ones.

We all can contribute to stopping behaviors that lead to bullying, especially if we begin early in a child’s development.

 

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Updates About Walking and Bullying

Americans Are Walking More!

Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a press release on Sept 4th reporting that recent research indicates more Americans are walking. More of us need to take up walking regularly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicates we have miles to go. The review of national survey data found about 62 percent of adults walked at least once for 10 minutes or more in the previous week in 2010. That’s up from about 56 percent in 2005.

People need to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity to get health benefits. Researcher Dianna Carroll:“In our study, we found less than half of adults get the 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. This can be improved by doing activity as simple as walking .

 The Signs of Bullying

If you’re worried that someone is bullying or being bullied, look for changes in behavior.

Let’s talk about the bullies. If a child is aggressive, is overly competitive and aware of popularity, or isn’t taking responsibility for his or her actions, he or she might be bullying others. Being bullied has warning signs, too.

Deborah Temkin is at the U.S. Department of Education says, “Children being bullied become more anxious and depressed and may be at more risk to use substances or miss school.”

Parents can be aware of their kids’ actions and habits. “Look for behavioral changes in your kids and talk to them about what’s going on, because it may be either they’re being bullied or they’re bullying others. And sometimes they’re involved in both, so we need to be very aware of any sort of changes we see in our kids.”

Learn more about the signs of bullying and how you can take action to prevent it from happening at stopbullying.gov.

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Are Bullies Born or Raised?

In an article by psychotherapist, Katie Hurley, she writes that children are not born bullies; bullies are something they become.

Ms Hurley believes that bullying is a learned behavior that is used in response to stress.  Bullying is an attempt to gain superiority or control over another.

bulliesShe states that while some studies indicate that some bullies have naturally aggressive and/or hyperactive personalities from the start; that should not be taken to mean that all “spirited” kids will bully while all kids who are mellow or laid back will not become bullies.

Her premise is that bullies have immature social skills. They see threats where there are none and identify other kids as hostile when they are not.  Bullies lack compassion and empathy. They have difficulty understanding how others feel.

Ms. Hurley states in her article that while it is hard to find compassion for a bully, it can be useful, however, to understand some of the reasons why kids become bullies:

1. Strained parental relationships.  Bullies often lack warm, caring, and involved parents.  Parents of bullies tend to be highly competitive and place unreasonable demands on their children to be superior to other kids (academically, socially, athletically, etc.).  These parents often have prejudices based on race, sex, wealth, and achievements.  They teach their children to compete at all costs, and to win by whatever means.

2.  Inconsistent discipline.  Bullies often lack consistent discipline at home.  Their parents tend to have difficulty setting limits and/or struggle to hold them accountable for their behavior.

3. Poor academic performance.  Some kids bully in response to academic stress.  When they struggle in the classroom and feel that they are not being helped, they may begin to lose hope.  When hope is lost, children act out.  This can translate to bullies seeking “revenge” on the higher achieving kids.

4. Unsupportive peer networks.  Children who are isolated and feel disliked or unsupported by peers often turn to bullying to gain some social control.  Their distorted thinking causes them to believe that controlling other kids = having friends.

5. Child abuse.  There is ample evidence that children who are physically abused by their parents turn around and bully other kids.  Abuse is cyclical.

6.  Victims of bullies.  Many bullies have actually been victims of bullies at another time.  Due to lack of support, poor social skills, and relying on learned behaviors, these kids use bullying behaviors to try to gain superiority and control so that they will no longer be victimized.

7. Low self-esteem.  When you add up all of the possibilities, it should come as no surprise that bullies tend to struggle with self-esteem.

There are steps to take to avoid raising bullies. Below are a few tips to work on building positive relationships:

  • Praise your children often.  Praise their big accomplishments as well as the little things that make them great every day.
  • Listen when they need to be heard.
  • Help them problem solve.
  • Encourage positive peer relationships.
  • Build positive sibling relationships.  Avoid comparisons, as this breeds unhealthy competition among siblings.
  • Set limits and hold them accountable for their behavior.
  • Teach empathy every day.
  • Carve out special time with each child and spend that time doing something that you both enjoy.
  • Talk often, even when you think they are not listening.
  • Stay calm; model appropriate conflict resolution skills.
  • Decrease exposure to violent TV, movie, and video content.
  • Be present.

Ms Hurley finishes her article on an up note, reminding the reader, again, that bullies are not born; bullies are raised. 

She states that we all have the opportunity to raise children who will choose to be empathic, kind, and loyal friends.  All we have to do is teach them those skills.

Katie Hurley blogs at Practical Parenting.

 

 

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A Stop Bullying Message from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

bullyingThe following message about bullying comes from Nicholas Garlow with HealthBeat, a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Bullying can be verbal, like name calling, social, to affect reputations and relationships, or even physical, which hurts someone or their possessions. It can happen anywhere, and to anyone.

We can help kids understand bullying by talking to them about it and teaching them how to stand up to it safely.

Erin Reiney, a public health specialist at the Health Resources and Services Administration says, “If a youth is being bullied, we really need to encourage him or her to talk to a trusted adult and not keep feelings insides. It’s important for a youth to tell somebody about the bullying in order to feel less alone.”

Children, parents, educators, and communities can learn how to take action against bullying and prevent it from happening by going to stopbullying.gov.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

 

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