Tag Archives: School-Related Topics

Helping your child to effectively handle bullying

By Ritu Chandra, M.D.

This blog is part two in a two-part series about bullying. You can read the first part here, which describes the definition of bullying and warning signs that you may see if your child is either being bullied or bullying others. This week, we will discuss the harmful, long-term effects of bullying as well as actions that parents can take to help their child understand, prevent or stop this behavior from occurring.
Black and white picture of an upset boy against a wall

 Effects of Bullying

Bullying can affect everyone—those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying—or something else—is a concern.

 Kids Who are Bullied 

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

 Kids Who Bully Others 

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Bystanders 

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

  • Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
  • Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Miss or skip school

Prevent Bullying

Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.

 Educate About Bullying

Training school staff and students to prevent and address bullying can help sustain bullying prevention efforts over time. I have personally done numerous staff training workshops for school staff at the beginning of the school year. I have also made presentations on bullying to several PTAs to address this very important issue.

Activities to Teach Students About Bullying

Schools don’t always need formal programs to help students learn about bullying prevention. Schools can incorporate the topic of bullying prevention into everyday lessons and activities. Examples of activities to teach about bulling include:

  • Internet or library research, such as looking up types of bullying, how to prevent it, and how kids should respond
  • Presentations, such as a speech or role-play on stopping bullying
  • Discussions about topics such as reporting bullying
  • Creative writing, such as a poem speaking out against bullying or a story or skit teaching bystanders how to help
  • Artistic works, such as a collage about respect or the effects of bullying
  • Classroom meetings to talk about peer relations

 How to Talk About Bullying

Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:

 Help Kids Understand Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

  • Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
  • Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away.
  • Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
  • Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.

Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage kids to answer them honestly. Assure kids that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these:

  • What does “bullying” mean to you?
  • Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
  • Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
  • Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
  • What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
  • Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
  • What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
  • Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
  • Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?

 Support Kids Who are Bullied 

  • Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.
    Bullying Photo Part 1 parents and daughter
  • Assure the child that bullying is not their fault. 
  • 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. The child, parents, and school or organization may all have valuable input. It may help to:
  • Ask the child who is being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging classroom or bus seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching classrooms or bus routes, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.
  • Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between schools, organizations, and parents. Discuss the steps that are taken and the limitations around what can be done based on policies and laws. Remember, the law does not allow school personnel to discuss discipline, consequences, or services given to other children.
  • Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
  • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.

Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.

 Avoid strategies that don’t work or have negative consequences.

  • Zero tolerance or “three strikes, you’re out” strategies don’t work. Suspending or expelling students who bully does not reduce bullying behavior. Students and teachers may be less likely to report and address bullying if suspension or expulsion is the consequence.
  • Conflict resolution and peer mediation don’t work for bullying. Bullying is not a conflict between people of equal power who share equal blame. Facing those who have bullied may further upset kids who have been bullied.
  • Group treatment for students who bully doesn’t work. Group members tend to reinforce bullying behavior in each other.

 Follow-up. After the bullying issue is resolved, continue finding ways to help the child who bullied to understand how what they do affects other people. For example, praise acts of kindness or talk about what it means to be a good friend.

 Dr. Ritu Chandra is the founder of Preferred Medical Group, with locations at Phenix City Children’s and Fort Mitchell Clinic. She is a board-certified pediatrician and specializes in ADHD, asthma, and school-related problems.

 

 

Childhood vaccinations are a must…..says the pediatrician

By: Ritu Chandra, M.D.

I think it’s easy for those of us who live in the U.S. to lose sight of the very serious risk that diseases like polio and tetanus pose for kids. Most of these diseases have been eradicated in our country. Few of us have never ever seen a case of polio. Vaccines in the U.S. can seem like an arcane practice for an intangible danger, and fears about harmful side-effects about vaccines drive some parents to avoid them for their own children. I get that.

The reason we get to “not believe in vaccines” today is because we have eradicated many of these crippling and life-threatening diseases in our country. Here’s the kicker: we have vaccines to thank for that. What an incredible privilege to raise our children in a time and place where not many people have seen any of these deadly diseases.

Parents don’t need to go very far to find opposition to vaccination, whether in play groups or online. The Internet is teeming with information on every conceivable choice a parent may encounter. Though suspicion about vaccines is not new, a now widely discredited study published in 1998 linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism kicked the panic over vaccines into overdrive.April Vaccinations

During my training 30 years ago I myself saw numerous kids who were afflicted with the crippling Polio. During my internship in 1998, I saw a child with Diphtheria who ended up dying …I will never forget that sweet one-year-old baby and I cannot ever erase the memory of telling his parents that we could not save him. Today, we routinely administer the Polio, Diphtheria and other vaccines to all babies at the 2, 4, and 6-month visits, and boosters after that.

Prevnar, the vaccine against the pneumococcus bacterium, is one of the greatest pharmaceutical innovations of the past two decades. In children who are vaccinated, it has eliminated most of the pneumonia and meningitis that bacteria cause. It proved so effective, in fact, that fewer pneumococcal infections occur in people over 65 who have never gotten the vaccine, because the germs are no longer circulating. It has, quite simply, changed the world for the better.

In Columbus and Phenix City, pediatricians do not accept “non-vaccinators” or, those parents who refuse to vaccinate their children into their practices. As a pediatrician, I feel bad for the child whose parents choose to not vaccinate…I feel that as a pediatrician I should not abandon the child. However, from a practical standpoint, the non-vaccinators are putting at risk everyone else that they come in contact with. If a pediatrician knowingly allows an unimmunized child into the office, the pediatrician might be liable for that child potentially bringing in a communicable disease and exposing other kids in our office to the disease. A real-life example: Two years ago we had two siblings come to the Fort Mitchell Clinic with Pertussis that was confirmed by lab testing. These unimmunized siblings exposed our staff and doctor to Pertussis, and our staff had to take antibiotics because of the exposure!

As a mom myself, I can certainly understand the desire to protect one’s child from any potential harm. When parents bring up concerns regarding vaccines or the AAP schedule, I encourage them to discuss their anti-vaccination ‘research’ with me. In my role as a pediatrician, I try to empower parents to make informed decisions regarding their children’s health. I want parents to have reliable, complete, and science-based information, so that they can make the best decision for their child about vaccination. Pediatricians most often rely upon the American Academy of Pediatrics for providing reliable information.

Top 5 Questions I am Asked:

Q1: How are the timing and spacing of the shots determined?

A: Each vaccine dose is scheduled using two factors. First, it is scheduled for the age when the body’s immune system will work the best. Second, it is balanced with the need to provide protection to infants and children at the earliest possible age.

Q2: Why are there so many doses?

A: Researchers are always studying how well vaccines work. For many vaccines, three or four doses are needed to fully protect your child. The doses need to be spaced out a certain amount to work the best.

Q3: Why can’t the shots be spread out over a longer period of time? There are 25 shots recommended in the first 15 months of life; why not spread these out over 2 or 3 years?

A: First, you would not want your child to go unprotected that long. Babies are hospitalized and die more often from some diseases, so it is important to vaccinate them as soon as it is safe. Second, the recommended schedule is designed to work best with a child’s immune system at certain ages and at specific times. There is no research to show that a child would be equally protected against diseases with a very different schedule. Also, there is no scientific reason why spreading out the shots would be safer. But we do know that any length of time without immunizations is a time without protection.

Q4: I’ve seen another schedule in a magazine that allows the shots to be spread out.

It was developed by a pediatrician. Why can’t I follow that schedule? My child would still get his immunizations in time for school.

A: There is no scientific basis for such a schedule. No one knows how well it would work to protect your child from diseases. And if many parents in any community decided to follow such a schedule, diseases will be able to spread much more quickly. Also, people who are too sick or too young to receive vaccines are placed at risk when they are around unvaccinated children.

For example, following one alternative schedule would leave children without full polio protection until age 4. Yet, it would take only one case of polio to be brought into the U.S. for the disease to take hold again in this country. This schedule also delays the measles vaccine until age 3. We have already seen outbreaks of measles in some parts of the country because children were not immunized. This is a highly infectious disease that can cause serious harm–even death. The reason we recommend vaccines when we do is because young children are more vulnerable to these diseases.

Q5: Isn’t it overwhelming to a child’s immune system to give so many shots in one visit?

A: Infants and children are exposed to many germs every day just by playing, eating, and breathing. Their immune systems fight those germs, also called antigens, to keep the body healthy. The amount of antigens that children fight every day (2,000-6,000) is much greater than the amount of antigens in any combination of vaccines on the current schedule (150 for the whole schedule). Thus, children’s immune systems are not overwhelmed by vaccines.

So, why would parents not vaccinate?

As mentioned previously, a surge in the anti-vaccine movement can be tied back to the year 1998 and Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, a British former surgeon and medical researcher, best known for his fraudulent 1998 research paper in support of the now discredited claim that there is a link between the administration of the MMR vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease.

In 2010, a statutory tribunal of the British General Medical Council found three dozen charges proven against Wakefield, including counts of dishonesty and the abuse of developmentally challenged children. It was proven that the researcher had misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism and other diseases.

The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, immediately and fully retracted his 1998 publication. It was later found that Wakefield had planned to launch a venture on the back of an MMR vaccination scare that would profit from new medical tests and “litigation driven testing.”

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license immediately after the investigation. Meanwhile, the damage to public health continues, fueled by hype and incomplete reporting.

I strongly urge all parents to get their information from reliable scientific resources and not from sources that use anecdotal and non-scientific information. Please call upon your pediatrician as your ‘go to’ person to help you make informed decisions about your child’s vaccinations.

Resources:

http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/families.html

http://www.immunize.org/aap/aap_resources.asp

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/tag/paul-offit/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/02/19/a-graphic-that-drives-home-how-vaccines-have-changed-our-world/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/straight-talk-about-vaccination/

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/pediatrics-journal-publishes-research-showing-antivaccination-parents-contributed-to-pertussis-outbreak-in-us/story-fni0cx12-1226732728856

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