Effective Strategies for Helping an Elementary Student Cope with Bullying

Sexual Abuse

Contributor: Leigh Bell, BA, writer for Eating Disorder Hope

I don’t know about you, but if I have the choice between sticks and stones or words, I’ll take the sticks and stones any day. My skin can heal, but emotions beneath it always may not.

More than 10% of children and teenagers are frequently bullied by their peers, and most of the bullying is verbal – spreading rumors or making fun of a kid, either in person or online.

Years ago a lot of bullying was brushed off by adults – a kids-will-be-kids thing. However, research in the last decade shows bullying can effect children’s mental health while it’s happening and long after.

The Effects of Bullying

And not just on the kids who are bullied, but also on the bully. Compared to kids who weren’t involved in any way with bullying: [1]

  • Bullies were nearly twice as likely to show signs of bulimia, like bingeing and purging.
  • Kids who are bullied are almost twice as likely to have symptoms of anorexia and bulimia
  • Children who were both victims and offenders of bullying were 4 times more likely to have symptoms of anorexia, binge eating, and vomiting as a way to maintain weight.

So What Can We Do?

Bullying, whether the victim or the bully, hurts. So what we can we do? Here is some advice from stopbullying.gov, a conglomeration of government agencies working toward the same goal.

If your child is being bullied by a peer:

  • Listen and focus on the child.
  • Show you want to help and assure the child that bullying is not their fault – even if they provoked it, nobody deserves to be bullied.
  • Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service.
  • Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the child might react if the bullying occurs again.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. This may involve conversations with school teachers or administration.

Avoid these mistakes, if your child is being bullied:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying.
  • Don’t contact parents of the child being bullied. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

If your child is bullying peers:

  • Make sure the child knows what the problem behavior is wrong and hurts other.
  • Show that bullying is taken seriously. Calmly tell the child that bullying will not be tolerated. Model respectful behavior when addressing the problem.
  • Work with the child to understand some of the reasons he or she bullied. Is he trying to fit in? Is she having problems at home or responding to bullying at school?
  • Use consequences to teach. Consequences that involve learning or building empathy can help prevent future bullying.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Awareness has been brought to bullying in recent years, have you seen an impact of the increased awareness in your own family? What experience have you had with bullying and what steps were taken once the bullying was discovered?

Leigh BellAbout the Author: Leigh Bell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in Creative Writing and French from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a published author, journalist with 15 years of experience, and a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Leigh is recovered from a near-fatal, decade-long battle with anorexia and the mother of three young, rambunctious children.


[1]: Copeland, W. E., Bulik, C. M., Zucker, N., Wolke, D., Lereya, S. T. and Costello, E. J. (2015), Does childhood bullying predict eating disorder symptoms? A prospective, longitudinal analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 48, 1141–1149.

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We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 25, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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