Mental health professionals remind families not to overlook bullying when resuming in-person classes

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – With students learning inside and outside their traditional classrooms, many are having to constantly navigate various social settings. Unfortunately for some, that may involve bullying.

School psychologist and prevention program supervisor for Montgomery County Educational Service District, Jodi Kulka, said while most people are familiar with the concept of bullying, many are not aware of its true causes.

“For some kids, it really does become a matter of climbing a ladder of esteem or a ladder of power,” said Kulka. “So they look for how they can achieve that, and maybe for some of them, that means stepping on someone else to kind of climb that ladder and feel a little bit more social power or social relevance.”

On the contrary, she said students who find themselves becoming victims of bullying are also seeking social acceptance, but those students, she explained, are often easy targets if they tend to be more shy or passive. Whatever the case, mental health therapist with Dayton Children’s Hospital, Brooke Lowrie, said the repercussions could be detrimental.

“When it’s not dealt with or appropriate help is not able to be sought to be able to process those feelings, it can create low self-esteem, difficulty seeking out help or support, increased anxiety, [and] fear around the situation. However, there are different ways that we can help kids build that emotional resiliency.”

Lowrie said for parents who find their children in a bullying situation either online or in the school building, one of the first steps to mitigating these traumatizing situations starts with modeling behavior and having open dialogues at home.

“Your kids are watching you whether you want them to or not. Modeling is huge, so if you want your kids to respond a certain way or to build that emotional agility and resiliency, parents and caregivers have to learn how to model that.”

Kulka explained that the task of teaching those social-emotional skills are then carried over into school districts across the state. She added Montgomery County has been especially diligent in finding ways to help these students.

“The Ohio Department of Education is really focusing now on social-emotional learning and prevention. They do finally see that as much as reading and writing and math are vital skills for students and people to learn, so are social-emotional learning skills. And we need to learn how to relate to each other better.”

She said the best advice she can give students who experience virtual or physical bullying is to embrace their differences and find their voice with the support of allies and like-minded students.

“I would tell students, while we understand and we hear your concerns, I think it’s okay to be who you are and assert yourself into how that impacts the day-to-day school operations. I think students sometimes feel like they don’t have power within their school systems, but I think if they do so in an educated and respectful way, they can really kind of advocate for themselves.”

In addition to student support, the Montgomery County Educational Service District also offers classes and other resources for parents and caregivers who want to learn more about how to approach bullying. To find out more about social-emotional learning, click here.


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