Take a Stand Against Bullying
“You never know what someone else is going through. Dealing with an illness is really tough without people being mean.”
This is something we hear time and time again from our Wish and Hero of the Month Kids. On top of all the challenges sick children face, many times they are the target of bullying from their peers. Kids Wish Network’s is bringing to light how children dealing with affliction and adversity are often bullied.
According to the PACER Center, children facing hardship in their life such as a life-threatening or other illness, disabilities, and other special medical needs that may result in social isolation are two to three times more likely to be bullied.
Bullying is often defined as repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally and typically has these characteristics:
- Hostile intent
- Imbalance of power
Bullying takes on many different forms ranging from physical attacks to verbal assaults or making fun of someone. It can also be indirect: spreading nasty rumors, exclusion from social groups, and cyber bullying. Children often bully because they learn this behavior at home. Many times, parents are angry or don’t know how to handle conflict. The child could be experiencing neglect or bullying from siblings. A high percentage of kids who bully are also children of divorced parents or parents who are abusing drugs or alcohol.
A variety of factors can play a role in why certain children are the subject of bullying; lower self-esteem, differences in appearance, or because they have special medical needs. One of our HERO kids, Catherine was a target of constant bullying growing up in Anchorage, Alaska.
Wish Kid John, was a healthy young man until his junior year of high school when he became sick, and as a result of medication, experienced significant weight gain. He, too, bore the brunt of bullying from fellow-classmates.
Many children have come out stronger by having to already deal with their illness and then subsequent teasing by their peers. Still, bullying can have a lasting emotional effect on those who have been bullied. Some symptoms to look for if you suspect a child is being bullied are:
- Depression and anxiety
- Decreased appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Academic problems in school
- Decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Acting out, sometimes becoming a bully themselves
Wish Kid Kira’s message to those who bully- “Don’t judge others for how they look, what they wear, or if they have an illness. An illness doesn’t define someone. Just because you are sick doesn’t mean you aren’t a normal person with feelings. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect”.
Parents, educators, health care providers, and other adults are the most important advocate a sick child can have. It is important that adults recognize if a child is being bullied and know how to handle a bullying situation.
We know our Wish and Hero Kids have the same feelings of wanting to belong, being liked, and having friends. Other children may think that kids with illnesses or in difficult situations are not the same as them, when in fact they are.
Please join Kids Wish Network in working towards a positive change in ending bullying. By taking a stand together, we can make a difference.