Back to School: Know the warning signs of bullying

For many children, the start of a new school year can be stressful, especially if they’ve been victims of bullying in the past. Mayo Clinic Children’s Center psychologist Dr. Bridget Biggs says parents and caregivers should know the warning signs. “If your child is reluctant to go to school, stressed after spending time online or avoids social situations, he or she may be being bullied.”

What is bullying?

Dr.Biggs defines bullying as “any form of aggression that is repeated.” This can be physical, verbal, social (excluding victims from activities, starting rumors about them) and increasingly electronic. It can happen not just at school, but anywhere a group of children congregate, whether on the playground, in school or on social media.

Bullying differs from fighting or teasing because there is a power differential between the bully and the victim. The bully has power over the other child and tries to control them using fear over and over again.

Additional warning signs your child is being bullied:

From www.stopbullying.gov

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Dr. Biggs points out that consequences of bullying can be serious. She says victims are at increased risk of depressionanxietysleep problemsself-harm, poor grades and in rare cases, suicide. She encourages parents and caregivers to directly ask their child if they have thought about self-harm. If a child knows that their parent or caregiver is open to discussing feelings about self-harm it can be a relief to the child and can open up lines of communication.

Dr. Biggs shares these tips for parents and caregivers on how to help children who are victims of bullying:

  • Talk it out – Ask your child about concerns.
  • Learn – Get information from your child about what’s happening.
  • Take notes – Record details of bullying events.
  • Discuss and practice how to respond – Walk away. Get help from trusted adult or peer.
  • Talk about technology – Before cyberbullying occurs set some ground rules including letting your child knows their electronic privileges will not be removed if they share that they have been cyberbullied.
  • Build self-esteem – Encourage your child to get involved in positive activities.
  • Team up – Reach out to teachers.

Watch: Dr. Bridget Biggs discusses warning signs of bullying.

Next week we will discuss cyberbulling, how to recognize it, react to it and prevent it.

As a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Tucson Medical Center works directly with Mayo Clinic, the nation’s No.1 hospital according to U.S. News & World Report. Our doctors get access to Mayo Clinic knowledge and resources, and you get the best care, close to home.

Back to school – Is your child’s school lunch box safe?

healthy school lunches- image by Flickr user @buzzymelibee

Flickr user @buzzymelibee CC: 2.0

How do you keep your child’s packed school lunch delicious, nutritious and safe? We asked Brittany Robertson, TMC pediatric dietitian for some suggestions to liven up your child’s back to school lunches:

1. Keep it cool

Use an insulated lunch box with ice packs to expand food options while still providing a safe lunch.

While those brown paper bags were standard for school lunches in yesteryear, increasingly most children take their packed school lunch in some sort of insulated lunch bag and with good reason. FoodSafety.gov shares this:

“Insulated lunch boxes help maintain food at a safe temperature until lunchtime. Perishable lunch foods, such as cold cut sandwiches and yogurt, can be left out at room temperature for only two hours before they may become unsafe to eat. But, with an insulated lunch box and a chilled freezer gel pack, perishable food can stay cold and safe to eat until lunch.

Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Perishable food transported without a cold source won’t stay safe long.

Suggestion: Pick up a few novelty ice packs. What little (or big) kid doesn’t like lunch to look appealing? You can also just freeze your child’s water bottle and use that as an ice pack. By lunchtime and out of the insulated lunch bag, the water should melt in time to drink. Frozen berries or mango can double as both dessert and ice pack.

2. Keep it clean

While preschool might have enforced the “wash your hands before eating” rule, is your child likely to voluntarily take off to the bathroom to wash her hands before eating?

Suggestion: Include some moist towels in her lunch box. Not a perfect solution, but a start. (Safe food handling practices in preparation of the food are also important.)

3. Include foods that don’t need to be refrigerated

FoodSafety.gov provides these examples of foods you can include that don’t need constant refrigeration: whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, breads, crackers, peanut butter* (given the increasing numbers of children with life-threatening reactions to peanuts, this might be best avoided, sunflower seed butter is often a good substitute), jelly, mustard, pickles, nuts* and seeds.

Suggestion: what to include in a healthy school lunch

Tucson News Now
http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/38764676/back-to-school-how-to-pack-a-healthy-lunch-for-your-child

Eat Right is the public site of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a great resource for healthy ideas

Nutrition 411

WebMd’s healthy lunchbox tips

4. Don’t over pack

At the end of the day it is frustrating to have to chuck the perishable food into the compost, or into the trash. Gauge how much food is left over and adjust accordingly.

Suggestion: Like all of us, your child likes some control over his or her life. Involve her in preparing her packed lunch. Include him in making his lunch the night before and discuss what a balanced diet looks like. I often encourage parents to make a drawer in the fridge or a bin in the pantry with pre-portioned lunch elements (bags of baby carrots, jicama and cherry tomatoes, grapes, berries, whole grain crackers, trail mix, yogurts, cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, etc.). That way the child can grab 1 item from each food group to make their lunch; The kid gets the power to choose and parents can rest assured that all of the options are healthy choices.

Keep in mind – if the choices are between chips and celery most children are likely to always choose the high fat, salt or sugar option.

Are you packing lunch for your child? What healthy foods do you include? How do you make it appealing? What tricks do you have to keep it healthy and safe?

Brittany Robertson, Registered dietitian
TMC Pediatric Dietitian

*Important Note
Before sending nut products in the lunch box, check with your school first about any restrictions on nut products. Also educate your child about the importance of not sharing food, especially with children who have food allergies. A little education goes a long way.

 

Get an A+ in back-to-school safety with the TMC Security Team

Security_Services_SealsBack-to-school is without a doubt an exciting time for families, but let’s face it – it can also be stressful for parents and children alike.  With multiple schedules to coordinate, lunches to pack, and homework to get done, it’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of the school year and let our guard down when it comes to child safety. 

TMC’s Security Services and the Crime Prevention K9 Unit offer the following information about simple things caregivers can do, and meaningful conversations they can have with the children in their care. 

DPS Sex Offender website

Take a few minutes and locate where registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood, by your child’s school, or any other parts of town you visit frequently.  The Arizona Department of Public Safety created this user-friendly website: http://www.azdps.gov/Services/Sex_Offender/

Analysis from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that approximately 32 percent of abduction attempts happened when a child was going to or from school, or a school-related activity.  The five most common tricks used by individuals attempting to abduct a child included offering the child a ride, offering the child candy or sweets, asking the child questions, offering the child money or using an animal to lure them into their car.

     ▪  Tell your children they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission, even if someone tells them it is an emergency. 
     ▪  Set clear boundaries about the places and homes your child may visit. 
     ▪  Make it a rule for your children to check in with you when they arrive at or depart from a location. 
     ▪  Talk openly with your child. 
          ∙  Encourage them to tell you or another trusted adult if anyone makes them feel scared, confused or sad. 
          ∙  Teach them that it is OK to tell you what happened and they won’t be a “tattletale” for telling.    
          ∙  Help your children identify trusted adults who may be able to help them if they need assistance. 
          ∙  Pay attention to your children and listen to them, as this will help them build feelings of safety and security.

Empower your child with this information in the event they are approached or followed

     ▪  Tell your child it is more important to get out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite.
     ▪  If they are approached by someone who makes them feel uncomfortable, tell them to trust their gut feeling, and get away. 
     ▪  If someone tries to kidnap them, tell them to do anything they can to draw attention to themselves – yell, kick, scream, pull away, or hit.

Getting to and from school safely

School buses are the safest mode of motorized transportation for getting children to and from school, but injuries can occur if kids are not careful and aware when getting on and off the bus.

     ▪  Walk with your child to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. 
     ▪  Make sure children stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches. 
          ∙  Young children do not have the same frame of reference for safety as adults do.
          ∙  They may not look before they leap, which is why it is so important for them to be supervised.
     ▪  Teach kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off, and remind them never to walk behind the bus. 
          ∙  If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, they should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe.
          ∙  Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.


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