Check out our interview with Colleen Adarhormazd on Childhood Bullying.
My name is Colleen Adarhormazd. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Corvallis, Oregon. I have worked in schools, community agencies, churches and county mental health programs. I have counseled children who have been bullied as well as children who have engaged in bullying behavior. Currently I work with children as young as 2 years old through adulthood.
Is bullying as big an issue today as it was say 10 years ago?
In some areas I believe the issue is even bigger than it was 10 years ago. I believe this is partially due to families spending less positive time together modeling appropriate social skills and ways to interact with others. I believe the increase in bullying is also due to the exposure to and use of technology at a young age. Some commercials and TV shows portray a negative way of interacting with others. Even teens who are supposed to be friends say and do disrespectful and mean things to each other on commercials and TV. Many children learn by watching these shows that it’s OK or even funny to say and do mean things to others.
Do you see a difference in how bullying happens today for example social media/mobile phones?
People often post hurtful comments on social media sites that they would never say to someone face to face. People feel a false sense of anonymity in the cyber world but negative comments posted online are just as damaging, if not more so, than those spoken. The hurtful comments can be read over and over and there’s a potential for thousands of people to read the comments. Through the misuse of technology people make threatening phone calls from blocked cell phone numbers or create fake social media profiles from which they spread rumors about others.
With current media coverage on Bullying and Cyber Bullying is the situation improving?
I think in some areas the situation is improving as parents, students, and teachers have become more aware and recognize the seriousness of bullying and are actively doing something about it.
Have you knowledge of any severe cases and consequences of Bullying?
I have worked with clients who refuse to go to school because they are being bullied there. Some clients I work with complain of physical pain such as stomachaches and headaches as a result of being bullied. Children and teens who are bullied may develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. The consequences of bullying can be very severe. In fact, last year the 13 year old daughter of a co-worker of mine committed suicide, and bullying was a contributing factor.
Can bullying impact a person’s family life and relationships?
A person being bullied may retreat into their own world to cope, isolating themselves from family or friends. In some cases in an attempt to express their feelings of anger, or to feel some sort of control or power, those bullied may in turn start to bully younger children, siblings, or pets. When people are bullied it can affect their self-esteem making them feel insecure and self-conscious. Sometimes bullying makes someone feel so bad about themselves they don’t even want to leave their bedroom.
What is the best advice to give a person who is being bullied?
Tell someone, preferably an adult who is in the position to do something about it like a teacher, school counselor or principal. It can be embarrassing to tell someone if you are being bullied but it is not your fault. Bullying is never OK. If the first person you tell can’t help you, don’t give up. Continue to tell adults until someone helps you put a stop to the bullying.
Is there likely to be long term effects on people who are Bullied?
There can be long term effects of bullying if the situation is not handled appropriately. I have worked with adults who were bullied in their youth and never told anyone or if they did the problem was ignored or not dealt with appropriately. These are the adults who many years later still struggle with self-esteem issues, depression and anxiety. On the other hand, I have also met many healthy and successful adults who report they were bullied when they were younger. The difference is they spoke up and got help. They told an adult and if this adult didn’t help they found another adult who did. These people who were bullied have become confident, strong and healthy individuals who are now helping others who are being or have been bullied.
Are parents and teachers dealing with bullied victims or bullies in the right way?
The most effective anti-bullying programs I have seen implemented give students a lot of power in creating and carrying out the program and the programs focus on teaching children and teens positive social skills. The programs that teach all children to have empathy and acceptance for others seem to have the best overall effect on decreasing bullying behaviors in schools.
What should a school or parent watch out for in a child’s behavior that might be a warning sign?
*Unexplained and/or intense feelings such as anger, crying, anxiety, depression.
*Picking on younger kids, siblings or pets/animals.
*Loss of interest in activities.
*Physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches, with no known medical cause.
*Refusing to go to school.
Are there any other comments you would like to make about this topic?
It’s easy to be angry with children who bully others, but it’s important to remember they are most likely hurting too. They need help. They need someone to sit down and talk with them about what caused them to bully. Perhaps they were a victim of bullying? Maybe something happened and they are in a lot of pain and do not know how else to deal with their pain? The children who bully need to talk to someone who can understand and accept their feelings. They need to know their feelings are OK but their bullying behavior is not. When people are shown empathy they are more likely to learn how to show empathy towards others. They need to learn tools and skills to communicate and process their feelings in healthy ways. They need to learn that bullying is not OK. I have worked with children who used to bully others but now they don’t because they learned how hurtful bullying is and they learned new healthy ways to express their feelings. This shows that people can learn new ways of interacting and bullying can be resolved positively when dealt with appropriately.