Middle School Bullying: Facts, Effects, and Treatment
Many middle schoolers believe that if they are being bullied, that it reflects something they did to deserve being treated that way. Regardless of the reasons for which students may be singled out and bullied, at the end of the day the bully is the only person responsible for the bullying. Anyone can be a target of bullying — even kids who excel in school, are popular and participate in sports.
Experiences of mean girls and bullying are common in middle school, but they can still feel isolating. If your daughter is being bullied at school and is struggling socially, switching schools can give her space to focus on herself and her academic goals. Therapeutic boarding schools combine supportive accredited academics with experiential therapies to help girls regain confidence.
The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.
Asheville Academy Bullying Public Service Announcement
What is Bullying?
The main features of bullying include unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance, and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition. There are many different modes and types of bullying, such as direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). Bullying can happen in any number of places, contexts, or locations.
Facts about Bullying
Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school.
Most bullying incidents occur on school property.
Bullying tends to peak in middle school, as there is a huge emphasis on peer acceptance that dissolves by high school when everyone is happier finding smaller groups of friends and growing into themselves.
Signs My Child is Being Bullied in School
They come home with damaged or missing belongings
Doesn’t want to talk about their day at school
Has unexplained injuries or physical complaints
Has few, if any friends, with whom they spend time
Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers
Finds or makes up excuses as to why they can’t go to school
Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
Types of Bullying
Verbal Bullying. You know the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” People who have been called names, gossiped about, or picked on would disagree. Verbal bullying is the most common type of bullying, although it can range from an unflattering nickname to threats. These messages often shape negative beliefs that children form about themselves.
Bullied by Friends. Middle schoolers are more likely to struggle with considering relational aggression and gossip “bullying” because the “bullies” were supposed to be their friends or were at some point. As girls tend to be “bullies” in different ways, girls also internalize bullying as an attack on their relationships, more than as something personal.
Cyberbullying is becoming one of the most common forms of bullying–by friends, anonymous accounts, and even complete strangers. The problem with cyberbullying is that it can happen anywhere, as it doesn’t stop once your child leaves the school property. The more active your child is on social media, the more likely they are to have dealt with “haters.”
Physical Aggression is the classic sign that someone is being bullied, but probably happens the least frequently. Playing rough during PE can be considered a form of being targeted, not just getting jumped during the lunch period.
When Might Your Child Need Treatment After Being Bullied?
Experiences of bullying are the most common predictor of PTSD symptoms in students attending college—this has a greater effect than witnessing other violence or trauma–even if it had been years since they had been bullied. While many people direct resources towards preventing bullying or intervening when it is happening, the effects of bullying can be long-lasting.
If your daughter is struggling with school anxiety and finding social support after being bullied, going to a therapeutic boarding school may help her get back on track academically and help her develop a stronger support system.
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What to do if your Daughter is Being Bullied at School
Don’t overreact. It is natural to feel angry and helpless as you want what’s best for your daughter and want her to find good people that see her the way you do but remember that she feels just as angry and helpless. You may know the parents of the girls who are bullying her, or they may have been close friends at one point, but neither your daughter nor her bullies are to blame. They are both struggling with the transition to middle school and finding where they belong socially.
Listen to her experiences. If she has been rejected at school, she may feel like she doesn’t have anyone to turn to for social support. Check in about her day and encourage her not to isolate. Let her know that you will be there whenever she’s ready to talk about what’s been going on and reach out for help.
Role-play situations. While you may empathize with her, don’t jump to giving advice. Ask her what she thinks she can do the next time she is in a similar situation and brainstorm possible responses together. She may not be able to control their behavior, but she can control how she responds.
Teach her how to advocate for herself. Remind her that the girls bullying her are not as confident as they claim to be. They may continue to pick on her if they know it will elicit a response. Teach her how to recognize signs that she is being manipulated. Encourage her to stand up to bullies by telling them what they are doing is mean and that she knows she deserves better.
Encourage her to switch schools. While mean girls are at every school, changing schools can give your daughter a clean slate where no one knows her history and she is more likely to be able to start over and make new friends. Asheville Academy for Girls is an accredited boarding school that offers specific support for girls who have struggled academically and socially in other schools as a result of bullying.
How Do Therapeutic Boarding Schools, like Asheville Academy, Help Teens Struggling with The Effects of Being Bullied?
In order to protect against bullying, therapeutic boarding schools work to build a culture of positivity and inclusivity — and recognize that bullying is a cultural problem, not just an individual one. The attitude of a social group may be competitive and exclusive or it may be emotionally supportive. Cultivating a positive peer culture doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in a group must be friends with each other. However, it can discourage conflict and bullying by promoting positive social interactions.
Relationship Skills. Asheville Academy takes a relationship-based approach to helping girls heal from the experience of being bullied at school. By creating a nurturing therapeutic environment, including an inviting campus, supportive staff, and positive peer culture, we help teens change their beliefs about relationships, rebuild their self-esteem, and practice relational skills.
Bullying Prevention. Asheville Academy’s Bullying Game Plan is a curriculum specifically developed for troubled girls and parents to help develop assertive communication skills, one of the cornerstones to successfully dealing with bullying. Through the Game Plan lessons girls recognize the signs of bullying, develop skills for assertiveness, and are challenged to stand up for themselves and others who are bullied. The lessons also highlight the nature of the bullies and how support and understanding can lead the bullies to find more positive means to gain attention.