Beyond Bullying – How Social Emotional Learning Can Help Protect Kids
October 22, 2023
By Michelle Miranda, MA, Curriculum & Development Manager, The Character Effect™
The Reality of Bullying
The facts are staggering. A recent study found that bullying was among teachers’ top school safety concerns along with student fights and school shootings. Nearly 14% of public schools report that bullying is a discipline problem occurring daily or at least once a week. While many adults may have stories of bullying on the bus, playground, or in the hallway, the ever-present nature of social media including online gaming, video sites, and messaging centers, makes it impossible for kids to escape the threat of bullying, even in their own homes.
The Neurological Impact
According to Dr. Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D. writing in Psychology Today , when a text message becomes a source of anxiety and fear, it triggers a cortisol-driven reaction in our bodies, akin to an electric shock. Imagine your body’s stress-response system constantly firing up every time you get a text. That is the life of a victim of bullying. A continuous cycle of stress, anxiety, and fear propels the body into a survival mode: fight, flight, or freeze.
The Role of Families and Schools
Being intentional about modeling kind and empathetic behavior at home is an important first step to addressing concerns of bullying. In that safe space, you can show up as an active listener who observes your child’s behavior objectively and courageously to see what’s really going on. Look for sudden mood changes and start a conversation. Gently ask general questions about how kids treat each other in school, and gradually build up to their personal experience. Believe what your child is saying and be an ally who they can count on for support.
In schools, having the foundation of a strong Social Emotional Learning program is imperative. According to Dru Ahlborg, Executive Director of Bullying Recovery Resource Center, “….integrating the tenants of SEL into the academics and culture of schools has proven to reduce bullying. Bullying prevention that is integrated throughout the curriculum makes an impact.”
Teaching students Strength-Based and Mindfulness strategies like the ones taught in The Character EffectTM program can be part of the solution. Using the strengths of Kindness and Teamwork has been shown to empower students. Additionally, the strengths of Honesty, Prudence, and Love are associated with less aggression and support an empathetic environment to proactively combat bullying.
Keys for Combatting Bullying
- Teach students to identify and regulate emotions
- Cultivate the strengths of Kindness and model empathy
- Empower students to be upstanders
- Build relationship skills
- Promote belonging and inclusion in all environments
- Teach Mindfulness to encourage self-regulation skills
- Build trust and create safe spaces for students to process conflict
The Character EffectTM curriculum holds a wealth of resources for families and schools to help develop these skills.