A New Light for Old Problems? Bullying Interventions That Work

Some of the hardest issues workers and parents deal with include managing bullying situations. Ray’s Room Therapy child and family counsellor and CCWT presenter Ray Medhora writes about the rise of bullying in our society and some of the new strategies being used to tackle this age-old problem:

School yard bullying can lead to lifelong effects including mood disorders as well as post-traumatic stress symptoms, and is now considered a form of trauma. In Australia, by the age of 15, up to 40 per cent of kids report experiences of being bullied. Statistically, any child can fall victim to this social phenomenon regardless of race, gender or popularity. We also know that a large portion of kids who experience being the victim also become the aggressor and will use bullying at some point in their school life. Add to this the fact that screens have proliferated the homes of families everywhere to the point of no return. Even our fridges have a screen. Technological advances have brought the latest threat in social media – with a rising population of children experiencing online bullying totally out of sight by the adults in their lives.

Teachers and parents alike have battled with how to treat bullying, and through the decades we have seen a range of interventions fall flat. We were taught to “fight back”, then to “turn the other cheek”, and also to “always tell the teacher”. All of which have somehow made their deficits more apparent than their benefits. Teachers and parents have felt that ‘something more needs to be done’ but talk about feeling powerless in the face of a seemingly unstoppable trend.

Kids too have reported feeling powerless as well as isolated, shameful and worthless as a result of bullying. It appears as though ultimately our kids have been the ones who have paid the price for the shortfall in successful interventions to bullying. Bullying represents a threat to kids’ sense of self and, as a result, often leads to low self-worth and confidence. As many parents will tell you, children act completely different when bullying becomes a problem.

Research suggests that parents and professionals working with these kids report the same level of powerlessness and confusion as the kids they are trying to help. For some time, bullying has felt like a stuck issue with little to no reprieve. Research also suggests there is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Over the past 10 years, Australia has been gathering research and investigating how bullying can be mitigated and treated to prevent ongoing issues for schools and communities. We know more now about why kids treat each other the way they do than we ever have before. We also know the best possible ways to intervene.

Mindfulness and other third wave therapies are having huge impacts in the bullying arena. Schools all over the United States are implementing mindfulness based practices in place of detention and are watching as their bullying rates plummet. MRI scans demonstrate the differences between kids who use mindfulness versus kids who don’t.

Other techniques including group conferencing, school theatre and team activities have also risen in popularity for their creative ways of managing both the feelings of the ‘victim’ as well as increasing empathy in the ‘bully’.

Now all we need, are more people to understand and share this new information.

CCWT’s upcoming School Yard Bullying: New Ways of Working with Old Problems workshop aims to resource workers with practical, evidence-based interventions and skills to work with children and young people in the midst of bullying. Participants will learn the neurobiological effects of bullying and they can be counter acted through a range of interventions for schools, counsellors and parents.

Are you in?

Ray will be presenting the two-day School Yard Bullying: New Ways of Working with Old Problems at CCWT’s Sydney office on July 20 and 21.