Earlier this week I saw a 12-year-old girl for a follow-up visit. I initially saw her in May of this year. She came to see me because of worsening abdominal pain despite an extensive evaluation with her pediatrician. I performed additional tests including an upper and lower endoscopy and could not come up with an explanation for her pain. She also complained of headaches and fatigue. I recommended some simple dietary changes, probiotics, antispasmodics and close follow up. Her pain seemed to gradually improve in June and she was doing well until last week. Her abdominal pain, headaches, and fatigue started to return. The parents became concerned and frustrated because school is starting in two weeks and they want to make sure we figure out what is wrong before school starts. She had missed many days of school last year and they did not want the cycle to be repeated.
I went over a detailed health history with the parents and child and after examining her, I had the parents step out while I spoke to her alone. She reported that her summer and been fun. She had traveled quite a bit and did not have abdominal pain. We talked about the start of the school year, friends, classmates, what to expect and any anticipation she might be feeling. From our conversation, it became apparent that she had been bullied the last school year and was afraid of returning to school. With my help, she was able to explain to her parents what had happened. The parents were shocked that bullying was the source of her abdominal pain but they have made plans to discuss the situation with the school prior to the start of the school year.
Bullying can take an emotional and physical toll on its victims. Studies have shown that bullying can present as psychosomatic complaints such as:
- unusual headaches
- loss of appetite
- sleeping problems
- abdominal pain
What is Bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance.
- Children who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others.
The behavior is repetitive.
- Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
The Three Types of Bullying:
Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things.
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
Social bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships.
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Hitting/kicking/pinching
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
Where Does Bullying Happen?
- At school in areas where there is the least adult supervision: bathroom, library, cafeteria, playground
- On the bus
- In the neighborhood
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that involves technology. Cyberbullying can occur anytime in the day or night even when a child is alone.
- Text messages
- Skype messages
- Posts on social networking sites
How to Prevent Cyberbullying:
- Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.
- Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
- Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you will review their online communications if you think there is a reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
- Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
- Ask for their passwords
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites.
- Understand School Rules:
Some schools have developed policies on uses of technology that may affect your child’s online behavior in and out of the classroom. Ask your child’s school if they have developed a policy.
Reasons Why Children Do Not Always Seek Help:
Studies show that 20-30% of all children are bullied but only 1/3 of them report it to an adult.
- Bullying can make a child feel helpless. The child may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
- Children may fear the backlash from the child who bullied them.
- Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Children may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. Children may fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
- Children who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
The effects of bullying can be devastating to children of all ages. As our children go back to school this month, it is crucial that parents remain watchful and involved so bullying can be stopped at an early stage. If you would like more information about gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Plano Office or Southlake Office.