As Mentors, we are curious and concerned if our mentee shares they are having difficulties with their classmates. We know most kids will experience various conflicts with a peer as they develop, and so we encourage them to “take the high road” and “not take it personal” in minor skirmishes. But bullying is something much more insidious and should not be taken lightly or ignored. Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior with an intent to harm. The bully behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated, over time or it can be one significant act. Additionally, if someone is being bullied, there may be a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying can be physical, verbal, written or virtual, causing social, emotional and/or relational harm. According to Stompoutbullying.org, one out of every four students reports being bullied. Some signs that may point to a bullying problem include:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. Kids who are bullied themselves, whether at home or at school, often become bullies too. Some signs that may point to someone bullying others.
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
As a Seedling mentor, you are in a unique position to support your mentee if they are experiencing bullying, to avert your mentee if they are bullying someone, and to teach your mentee how to stand up to bullying behavior.
If your mentee is being bullied, actively listen and validate their feelings. Foster a safe space with your mentee where they feel comfortable talking about it. You can also help your mentee advocate for themselves by creating a plan to execute for when they are being bullied. This plan can include telling a trusted adult on campus together or identifying resources that can help.
Check out David’s Legacy Foundation presentation for valuable information you can share with your mentee about staying safe and how to be an upstander to bullying! A special thanks to our November Mentor Training presenter, Lou Ann Sarachene, of David’s Legacy Foundation. This important non-profit organization located in San Antonio, Texas strives to eliminate cyber and other bullying of children and teens through education, legislation, and legal action.