Grand Rapids, MI (WOOD) –You may think of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital as a place you take your child if they break their arm or need surgery; but they also look at the whole child, everyday helping to cure mental health issues, particularly when it comes to bullying in teens and adolescents.  They know that bullying is a tough topic to talk about, that is why they have several tips when it comes to talking to your child and seeing the early warning signs.  It is important to let your child know that you are there to help and that you are a place that can provide comfort and a listening ear.

Bullying looks different at different ages according to Dr. Kelsey Gonring, pediatric psychologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  In younger children you are more likely to see physical signs of bullying including bruises, torn clothing, and missing items.  While pre-teens and adolescents are much different being a bit more aggressive thanks to smartphones.  A lot of bullying that takes place in middle and high school happens online because kids feel more comfortable saying nasty things or picking on others from the comfort of being behind a screen.

It is important as parents to remain calm when we discover that our younger child is being bullied.  It is important to know that your child is home safe and that they are in your presence.  It is also important to be patient with your child, teacher and school while dealing with the issue.  Make sure that you take time to collect yourself before you start to make assumptions that can further worsen the situation.      

When it comes to our teenagers, there are some signs that you can look for rather than taking your child’s phone and looking through it.  Some of these are less obvious signs to the teen are if your teen starts skipping class consecutively and you get notices from school, or if they are walking to school instead if riding the bus, any avoidance of a school setting is a big sign that your teen could be getting bullied.        

There are certain times and situations that are better and easier to start a conversation with your child about bullying.  This can be hard to talk about for your child so setting up that conversation in a less confrontational area or more private can ease the uncomfortableness, a good example would be talking to your teen or young child in the car.  Another good time to talk is at night before bedtime.  This is a good opportunity because this is generally a calmer part of the night, and your child is more likely to be inviting to have a conversation with you.  It is important that you state your concerns and let them know that you want to be there to help.

Adolescents today are facing more pressure than ever which causes a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression unfortunately.  Our kids may even create what is called psychosomatic symptoms that may include headaches and stomachs due to everyday stresses as well as being bullied.  There has been quite an uptick in these cases since the pandemic and this part of the everyday work that doctors do at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  For more tips of what you and your child can do to help deal with and prevent bullying click here.        

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