To understand this heartbreaking phenomenon, Smart Parenting invited bullying victims and a child psychologist to a roundtable discussion. Can the effects of bullying last a lifetime? And when should you put your foot down as a parent?
Meet our panel
Bianca Valerio is a model, TV host, author, makeup artist, personality development speaker, columnist, and mom of one. She was bullied during her elementary years and until college. Her experiences and how she survived the trauma led her to write a self-help/makeup instructional book, Face-to-Face: The Healing Power of Make-up.
Last year, Noni Odulio wrote a note on his Facebook page about his firstgrade daughter’s experiences of being bullied and has gotten around 1,000 likes and 200 comments, plus more than 300 shares. Noni also owns a preschool in Parañaque and in SM Mall of Asia. He is a dad of three, with ages ranging from three to eight years old.
Sabrina Tan, Ph.D. is a child psychologist who holds a master’s degree in Therapeutic Interventions and a doctorate degree in School Psychology from Fordham University in New York. She is an associate at the Ledesma Clinic for Neuropsychological Services and has her own practice in Mandaluyong.
When bullies abound Noni: My daughter was bullied several times by her classmates because she was a new student. They tripped her, poked her with a pencil, and vandalized her notebook. The last straw was when they threw her lunch box into a trash can. The school wasn’t doing anything to fix the situation, even if the teacher called to tell us what happened. Things shouldn’t have reached that point.
I met with the parents of the bully after I made this request clear to the school. The only thing we wanted was for the parents of the bullies to know what their kids were doing. My daughter now goes to a different school, but not because of these incidents.
Bianca: On the first day in my new school, my classmates all decided they didn’t like me. Unknowingly, I had asked the most popular girl about the school lockers, and from then on, I’d cry every day. Once, we had to stay in school for a project. They locked me inside the bathroom; they locked the doors, closed the windows, and sprayed insecticide. I was in Grade 5.
I tried to commit suicide when I was in Grade 7. I felt really ugly growing up because I never had any friends in school. They spread rumors about me, and the parents of my friends kept them from hanging out with me. In high school, I even found myself talking to the walls. Some people tried to talk to me but stopped whenever they saw the popular kids looking at us. I repeated third year high school and believed I was stupid. My teachers didn’t support me.
Dr. Tan: Bullying makes life hell for the victims. As a child, it’s your reality, and because it’s minute to minute, you don’t want to go to school. Students who are different, new to the school, or seem to be a threat are more prone to bullying.
The trauma stays Noni: My daughter cries when she remembers what happened.
Bianca: There are emotional scars, even if you’ve forgiven the bullies. You carry them with you always. To this day, I have that [notion] that it’s difficult for me to make friends. What happened to me years ago still affects how I relate with others today. Even if I know it’s not true, self-doubt gets the best of me; I think I’m not good enough to be someone’s friend. For me, a new environment is like the first day of school all over again.
Dr. Tan: Bullying comes in many forms and is pervasive. It affects the child and the effects can last a lifetime. Depending on the gravity of the situation, there are negative consequences for both bullies and the victims. Bullies are more at risk for delinquency, criminal behavior, and alcohol abuse. Victims often develop low self-esteem and fearfulness, and are at higher risk for developing anxiety, depression, somatization [to convert anxiety into physical symptoms], and in dire cases, suicidal tendencies. Even if the bullying isn’t physical, it is not any less traumatic for the child. Not wanting to go to school is a bad effect for the child who is bullied because it impedes academic involvement and learning.
Cyber-bullying is also very hard to escape, especially for teenagers. Embarrassing information about the child, put-downs, taunts—they can all easily spread on the Internet and, with the anonymity of the perpetrator, victims often feel more helpless than when it happens in real life. It is traumatic even if it’s not physical victimization.