Teasing happens with kids of all ages. It may be seemingly-innocent name-calling, or more serious harassment and ridicule, but whatever the level it can be painful and psychologically damaging.
Recognizing and dealing with negative interactions between children, such as teasing and bullying, is an increasing area of focus for most schools today. This is especially true as social media has provided new and far-reaching means for kids to shame other kids.
But bullying doesn’t end with the school year. It’s important for parents to pay attention to situations in which their child may be experiencing teasing or bullying. Studies find that children who are repeatedly teased may end up suffering from depression, anxiety and sleep problems. They are more likely to skip school or under-perform in classes and in severe cases, can suffer from serious emotional and psychological issues.
When a child lets a parent know, directly or indirectly, that he or she is being teased and harassed by one or more other kids, it’s important not to ignore or downplay the incident. The answer is not to confront the bully or to offer advice to just ignore the teasing. Confrontations often make things worse, and advice to ignore the bullying tells the child that mom or dad doesn’t understand the pain that is being felt, and may keep the child from sharing future experiences and problems.
Experts advise letting your child know that you understand that what has upset him or her is just as serious a problem to you. Ask your child to explain what has happened, and listen carefully without criticizing or disapproving about how your child handled the situation.
You might share your stories of teasing or criticism you have experienced in order to let your child know that it happens to most of us, and that it’s normal to be upset.
You can also help your child learn how to handle or stop the teasing. Your local library or bookstore will have books on the subject, or try an online search for advice (a U.S. Health Department site is at www.stopbullying.gov). In serious, ongoing cases, consider consulting with a professional counselor specializing in family and child counseling.
To adults, teasing may seem a minor issue, but to an adolescent, pre-teen or even a teenager facing repeated taunting, harassment and ridicule, it’s a serious and painful problem that shouldn’t be ignored.