Bullying, Prevention Programs, and Art Therapy

Art-Therapy

When teasing occurs, two or more people act together in a way that seems fun and funny to everyone involved (Hazelden Foundation, 2013). In contrast, bullying occurs when a person is exposed to negative behaviors from others repeatedly over time, and the person is not able to defend him or herself. The bully has more power and strength than the victim (Hazelden Foundation, 2013). This has been stated as one of the reasons students bully; another reason is finding a certain amount of satisfaction in hurting others.

There are several different types of bullying, which include the following: name calling, false rumors, social exclusion, hitting, kicking, spitting, stealing or damaging materials, being forced to do something they don’t want to, racial and sexual comments (National Mental Health Association, 2002), or comments via text, email, online. With cyber bullying, the bully can be anonymous, can do this anytime of day, and has a much larger audience to make comments to others about the victim than in the school setting (Hazelden Foundation, 2013).

For parents of children who may be victims of bullying, there are recommendations for handling this type of situation. First, is not to downplay the existence of bullying in their child’s school (Hazelden Foundation, 2013). The parents need to express to their child, that they take bullying situations very seriously and will address what has occurred with the school staff. Common signs of bullying that parents can watch out for are the following: torn, damaged clothing, unexplained cuts or bruises, fear of going to and doing poorly in school, isolated from others, complain of physical ailments, sleep and appetite loss.

In the school setting, school professionals need to give out the message that it is “uncool” to bully, but it is “cool” to help out those students who are being bullied. (Harris Interactive, Inc. and GLSEN, 2005, Hazelden Foundation, 2013).  According to the Hazelden Foundation Bullying Prevention Program (2013), there is a bullying circle that forms around the student that is the victim, which includes, the bully or leader in the group, followers or henchman, supporters of the bullying who watch what is occurring, disengaged onlookers, who notice what is happening, but do not become involved, possible defenders of the victim, and students who actually defend the victim. School staff are encouraged to watch for bullying in the different areas of the school, to administer consequences to those students who bully, and to give positive feedback to those students who defend the victims. Teachers are encouraged to hold a community meeting once a week during class time to discuss bullying, and different related school student topics (Hazelden Foundation, 2013).  Students may also engage in art therapy and  create artwork during this meeting, which helps them to express what they can’t put into words. Students’ artwork has centered on themes of aggression, social isolation and stereotypes.

References

Harris Interactive, Inc. and GLSEN, 2005. From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers. New York: GLSEN. This report can be accessed at www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/585-1.pdf

Hazelden Foundation (2013). http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/recognizing_bullying.page.

National Mental Health Association. 2002. “Bullying in Schools: Harassment Puts Gay Youth at Risk.” This article can be accessed at www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/children-s-mental-health/bullying-and gay youth.

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About Kerith Glass

Kerith Glass has worked as an art therapist and school psychologist for the past twenty years. She specializes in working with children with autism, school anxiety and changes in the family due to divorce and death. She has given presentations and appeared on TV and radio shows focusing on the benefits of art therapy with children in times of stress and change. Her practice, Expressions Art Therapy is in Haddonfield, NJ, and her work in schools is in the nearby Haddon Heights, NJ area. www.expressionsarttherapy.com

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