Raising awareness about bullying

schoolyard bully kicking a ball at 3 boys

Cropped image. Thomas Ricker, Flickr. CC license.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is the time when we—as parents, schools, communities and states—need to come together to spread the word about bullying and what we can do to prevent it. Messages about kindness, inclusion and acceptance need to be part of our conversations and actions.

What exactly is bullying?

The Center for Disease Control and the Department of Education define bullying as “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that happens via electronic communication and often takes place on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, messaging apps or texts. It includes sending false, negative, hurtful or mean content about another person leading to humiliation and embarrassment of the victim. At times, cyberbullying may be criminal in behavior or unlawful. In 2015, The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that 21 percent of students between the ages of 12 and 18 are being cyberbullied.

What do the numbers show?

  • More than 1 in every 3 or 4 children report being bullied.
  • Bullying occurs most often in middle school, although it occurs at any age.
  • More than 160,000 students miss school each day in fear of being bullied.
  • According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:
    • 13 percent of victims were made fun of, called names, or insulted
    • 12 percent were victims of rumors
    • 5 percent report being pushed or shoved
    • 5 percent were intentionally excluded from activities
  • A slightly higher number of female students were bullied at school (23 percent vs 19 percent) but more male students were physically bullied (6 percent vs 4 percent).
  • Bullying occurs in the halls, stairwells, in the classroom and cafeteria, outside on school grounds and on the bus.
  • The most commonly reported reasons for being bullied include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation.
  • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. (McCallion & Feder, 2013)
  • More than half of the bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied. (Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001)

What are some effects of bullying?

  • Bullied students have an increased risk for poor school adjustment, grades, anxiety and depression. They also report frequent headaches and stomachaches.
  • These students are at a greater risk for behavior and mental health problems.
  • Bullied students have a poor self-concept, often blame themselves and show maladjustment as they develop.
  • Bullying affects their relationships with family and peers.

Laws in Michigan schools

The laws require Michigan school districts to adopt policies to prevent bullying in the schools. All pupils are protected, and bullying is prohibited under this policy. School districts must:

  • have a written plan that includes notifying the parent/guardian of a victim of bullying and the parent/guardian or the perpetrator.
  • investigate the incident, report the findings and include the consequences, such as discipline or referrals. This must be done confidentially.
  • Have personnel trained to prevent, identify, respond to and report incidents of bullying that they encounter.

There is much more to this law; the complete law can be found here.

What schools can do

 Research shows that bullying can be stopped and even prevented when adults immediately respond to bullying and the students know that this behavior will not be tolerated. When a school enforces the laws and policies set by the school districts, students have clear expectations of their behavior and the consequences.

Schools can also provide school-wide activities around bullying. Activities can be done in the classroom so all students can feel safe to prevent bullying. Finally, creating a warm, safe atmosphere that fosters acceptance can prevent bullying.

What parents can do

  • Explore stopbullying.gov, a one-stop shop website that covers bullying, cyberbullying, prevention and resources. Another resource is www.stompoutbullying.org.
  • Help our children understand bullying. Talk about what it is and empower each child to stand up to it. Make sure a child understands that bullying is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Educating them to know what to do about it.
  • Empower your child so they know what to do if someone tries to bully them or what they should do if they witness a bullying situation.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your child each day, but most importantly, listen to what they are saying, either implicitly or explicitly.
  • Encourage kids to do the things they love. Students who are involved in their special interests and activities generally display a higher level of confidence.
  • Model how to treat others. When children see you treating others with kindness and respect, they may also display those same behaviors.
  • Check out one of the many apps that are available. One of the popular apps is “Sit with Us” that kids can use to find a lunch buddy.
  • If your child is being bullied, Beaumont Children’s Hospital offers the NoBLE program (No bullying, live empowered). NoBLE provides guidance, support and strategies to help resolve bullying issues.

Books as resources

There are many children’s books available for children to understand what bullying is and how to empower themselves when confronted by a bully. As always, reading together and talking about the books you read together gives valuable insight to the topic and your child’s feelings.

Let’s rally together and stop this hurtful behavior. Let’s strive to make all environments a safe place for our children.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.


Breastfeeding Lifestyle class

mom nursing baby in mother's room

U.S. Air Force photo, Airman 1st Class Haley A. Stevens.

As you prepare for your baby’s birth, you may find yourself thinking about what life will be like after baby is here. Mothers who are planning to breastfeed may be concerned about continuing breastfeeding while going back to work, school, or returning to “life.” Beaumont’s Prenatal and Family Education department has the perfect class to answer some of these questions and concerns: Breastfeeding Lifestyle.

This one-time class is taught by a Beaumont nurse educator and welcomes expectant or new moms. There is no wrong time to take this class. Some expectant families want to make sure they gain all the knowledge they need before the new baby’s arrival. Other families may want to gain knowledge when they need it.

There are benefits to taking this class after your new baby has arrived though. In the beginning of your breastfeeding experience, you focus on getting started and making sure baby is getting what he or she needs nutritionally. After a few weeks, you may discover that breastfeeding has gotten easier and you may start thinking about “life” and your “new normal” with your baby.

Regardless of when you take the class, we encourage your support person to attend as well. Your support person may have his or her own questions about breastfeeding an infant.

Topics discussed in this class include:

  • Adjustments you will make as a breastfeeding parent
  • Learning to use a breast pump
  • How to store your breastmilk
  • Going back to work or school
  • Baby’s growth spurts and your milk supply
  • Teething

Enroll in a breastfeeding class today.

– Maribeth Baker, RN HBCE LCCE, is a program coordinator with the Beaumont Community Health and Prenatal and Family Education department.

Beaumont’s Preparing for Breastfeeding class

mom breastfeeding baby

Cropped image. Marc van der Chijs, Flickr. CC license.

Congratulations! Becoming a new parent can be very exciting. Many expectant families ponder the question, “How should I prepare for my baby?” As a nurse and childbirth educator, I say that one of the most important ways a family can prepare for a new baby is to educate themselves with evidence-based information.

Many of us turn to technology to answer these questions, but unfortunately it is very hard to distinguish evidence-based, accurate information. For your convenience, Beaumont’s Prenatal and Family Education Department offers classes and educational materials to get you prepared for your new baby with confidence. Research found that families who take education classes before the birth of their baby felt more confident with their base knowledge when taking their newborns home.

One important decision expectant families will make is about breastfeeding. This question can lead to a cascade of questions and the best way to get answers is to take a Preparing for Breastfeeding class. Led by a Beaumont nurse educator, this one-time, three-hour class will discuss topics like:

  • What are the benefits for mom and baby?
  • How does a mother’s body make breastmilk?
  • How do I get the best start to breastfeeding?
  • How do I position myself and my baby to breastfeed?
  • What is all this talk about getting a “good” or “correct” latch?
  • How can my partner be part of the breastfeeding experience?
  • How do I know I am doing this right?
  • How do we know our baby is getting what they need?
  • How do we know when to ask for help?
  • What can we expect with breastfeeding in the first few weeks after my baby’s birth?

The “Understanding Breastfeeding Book” you receive in class will give you access to app-based information to help you through your experience. This can be used to help navigate the early days home with your new baby.

Enroll in a breastfeeding class today. This class is also available as an independent study.

– Maribeth Baker, RN HBCE LCCE, is a program coordinator with the Beaumont Community Health and Prenatal and Family Education department.

Ellie’s “Hummingbird Fun Bag” project

girl holding crayons and coloring book

Ellie with a sample Hummingbird Fun Bag

Everyone knows the phrase “The best things come in small packages.” That is most definitely true when it comes to Ellie Walsh-Sahutske and her Hummingbird Fun Bag project. Ellie is a nine-year-old (“Almost 10!” she reminds us) student in Grosse Pointe. When she was in third grade, her teacher assigned a Genius Hour project, which allows the children to work on something they are passionate about. Ellie is passionate about helping others, particularly pediatric hospital patients. She previously raised money through neighborhood chores and lemonade stands to donate to help kids in the local hospital. When the Genius Hour project came up, it gave Ellie a chance to explore and expand on her efforts.

Ellie is motivated by her cousin Clare, who passed away before Ellie was born. Even though they never met, Clare inspires Ellie and her efforts on behalf of hospitalized kids and their families. Ellie shares, “Clare is my cousin who was born very sick. She couldn’t do much, but she always made people smile. She was in the hospital a lot because she was really, really sick. If you have ever been in the hospital you know there is really not much to do. The reason that I started this was I was thinking how she was in the hospital a lot and she and her sister must have been really, really bored. And I don’t want other people to be really bored because that’s not happy. Everyone should be happy.”

When Ellie started thinking about what she could do to help kids who were in the hospital, she first thought of giving them a bucket of toys. She soon realized that this would be pretty expensive, and wouldn’t allow her to help very many people. So Ellie and her mom did some research and found that coloring books and crayons were a great option — less expensive and lots of fun — that would allow her to reach many more people. Ellie set up a Facebook page, a GoFundMe page, and collection bins at her school and her parents’ workplaces. She contacted Beaumont, Grosse Pointe about her project and was referred to Beaumont, Royal Oak because of its large pediatric unit. A date was set to meet with then Parenting Program Director, Deanna Robb.

woman standing with young girl

Ellie and her mom were very excited when they saw hummingbirds on the furniture!

When Ellie and her mom, Beth, walked into the room to meet with Deanna, they noticed hummingbirds carved into the furniture in the room. This was incredibly special as the family considers hummingbirds Clare’s spirit animal because of a couple of occasions when the tiny birds landed on her and made her smile. In that moment, Beth and Ellie knew they were on the right track, with Clare smiling down on Ellie’s efforts. Between Clare’s blessing, donations coming in, and support from the hospital, Ellie was off and running!

Ellie named her efforts the Hummingbird Fun Project but didn’t know just how big her “little” project would be. In the end, she made and delivered 1,016 Hummingbird Fun Bags to kids and their families at Beaumont, Royal Oak! She got support from her parents, her school, and even Grosse Pointe North’s National Honor Society who donated coloring books and crayons. Her favorite parts of the process were when donations came in and when she got to make deliveries and see the people she was helping. And now, Ellie is hard at work on her next project – laboring with her mom to make hand puppets to donate as well. When asked if she had any advice for other kids who would like to volunteer and help others, she said, “No matter what you think, you aren’t too small to do a project like this because a lot of people like to help and people will encourage you.” Of course you’re not too small, Ellie – the very best things come in small packages!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

Parents, protectors of the Earth

hand holding small earth

The experience of having a child brings with it an intuitive sense to protect our children from harm. This sense brings with it a set of shared actions that most parents engage in to protect their babies from the outside world. We educate ourselves on the latest and greatest baby-proofing devices. We stand in grocery store aisles reading long lists of ingredients on the backs of boxes. We survey our doctors, friends, and family members to learn about their experiences as a parent to get advice on what to do, and what not to do. We do all of these things because we want our child to be safe and healthy. But, what are we doing to keep the physical world in which they will grow up in healthy?

In the same way that we instinctively try to protect our children, we also must find ways to protect earth from the damage caused by human-made waste. Becoming more aware of how we can reduce our own negative impact on the environment, and remove the waste that we produce in our world will help. This awareness can help our children to understand the role that they can play to help our earth recover from the waste that today’s generation and earlier generations have produced.

It is our responsibility to make our earth healthier, safer, and a cleaner place for our children as well as for the other inhabitants of our planet. Let us thank Mother Earth by becoming good environmental overseers of her.

Some of the ways that new parents can help earth recover from the debris that comes along with having a baby include the following actions.

  • Reduce your use of disposable products
    • Sustainable Baby Steps offers a great set of suggestions in “Over 35 alternatives to plastics
    • Consider using cloth diapers versus disposable ones. A great place to learn more about this change is from Mama Natural.
  • Reduce your refuse impact
    • One quick and easy way is to stop using plastic bags. Invest in reusable tote bags for groceries and other carriables.
    • Check out the article “15 Ways to Reduce Landfill Waste” by Conserve Energy Future to see how you can lessen your load of garbage in landfills.
  • Reuse everyday items
    • Handing down baby clothes and toys to a friend or family member is a great practice that helps reduce your negative impact on the environment.
    • You can make baby toys from everyday household items with this article from Pathways.org.
  • Recycle
    • Recycle Nation lists 15 recyclable baby items.
    • Bright Horizons has some great answers on how to recycle baby bottles.
    • Visit your local recycling center to find out what you can and cannot recycle. If you live around Beaumont Royal Oak, your city may be a member of SOCRRA.
    • Looking to recycle a particular item? Earth911 lets you enter your zip code and material to be recycled to help you find a place that collects it near you.

– Lisa Ball is an intern with the Beaumont Parenting Program. She’s pursuing a degree in social work.

Helping our youth, protecting our future

small brown hand in a large white one

Times are changing and youth violence has become a very serious issue in our communities today. Research has shown the following:

  1. In a nationwide survey of high school students, 6 percent reported not going to school on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey because they felt unsafe at school and/or on their way to and from school.[1]
  2. In 2015, 485,610 young people ages 10 to 24 were treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained due to violence-related assaults.[2]
  3. On average, 13 persons between the ages of 10 and 24 are murdered each day in the United States.[3]

These facts are sad but true.

Preventing violence/trauma at home could be a key to its prevention outside of the home. Youth who are raised in a home environment that doesn’t promote healthy youth behavior and relationships tend to become a risk factor to others and to themselves. Furthermore, youth who are exposed to neglect, abuse and other risk factors are predisposed to later-life health and well-being concerns. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), through Kaiser Permanente, performed the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.[4] This study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. Ultimately, the study showed a strong correlation between exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults.

The definition of “youth violence” is when young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years intentionally use physical force or power to threaten or harm others.[5] The CDC named many evidence-based prevention tools that have shown positive effects for preventing youth violence when implemented. These tools include, but are not limited to, the following:

Furthermore, the CDC outlined programs that are beneficial in helping individual families focus on goals. These programs specifically focus on areas that strengthen economic supports to families, change social norms to support parents and positive parenting, provide quality care and education early in life, enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development, and intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk.

In our own community, groups such as the Beaumont Hospital Parenting Program, help prevent violence/trauma at home by providing individual family support, parenting classes and single moms groups to help address and prevent negative concerns at home.

Continuing our advocacy and protection of our youth should continue to be a priority because we all are aware that our children are our future. In the words of author Cindy Thomson, “hunt the good stuff.” I encourage you—along with your family and children—at the end of each day, to think of at least three good and positive things that happened that day. This is helpful because, as Cindy Thomson described, if you hunt the good stuff you will find it, you will bring others to it and you will lessen the pain of the bad stuff.

– Charla E. Adams, J.D., NCC, LLPC, is a former intern with the Beaumont Parenting Program. In addition to being an attorney, she is a couples counselor, teaches Love and Logic parenting classes and is an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing clinician.

Sources referenced:
[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance—United States, 2013. MMWR 2014;64 (No. 4)1-172.
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online].  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). 2013.
Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html(https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html). [Accessed 2016 March 01.]
[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online].  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). 2013.
Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html(https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html). [Accessed 2016 March 01.]
[4]Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults,” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 1998, Volume 14, pages 245–258.
[5] David-Ferdon, C., & Simon, T. R. (2014). Preventing youth violence: Opportunities for action. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/opportunities-for-action.html(https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/opportunities-for-action.html).;
Dahlberg, L. L., & Krug, E. G. (2002). Violence: A global public health problem. In E. G. Krug, L. L. Dahlberg, J. A. Mercy, A. B. Zwi, & R. Lozano (Eds.), World report on violence and health (pp. 1-56). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

Kindness counts

"be kind" in chalk

Sunday marked the beginning of “Random Acts of Kindness” week. Knowing it was coming up, I decided to run a two-week experiment in our household; I’ve heard it takes two weeks to make something a habit.

Our family dinners always include a report of the day by each family member. My husband and I ask our kids to share a banana split (something good about their day) and a banana peel (something hard). A few weeks ago, my husband decided to also ask the kids, “What was something kind you did for someone today?” In theory, this was a great idea! Unfortunately, we sometimes got side tracked by our banana splits/banana peels and forgot to follow up with the kindness question.

For the past two weeks, my husband and I recommitted ourselves to asking our kids every evening at dinner, “How were you kind today?”

Here are some highlights:

  • By the third night, the kids were reporting their kind act without being prompted by the adults.
  • The gestures progressed into more authentic acts of kindness as the two weeks progressed. For example, “I held the door open for my teacher” became “I asked John to sit with me at lunch because he looked unsure about where to sit.”
  • One act of kindness became several acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • By participating ourselves, we modeled a variety of kind acts and that encouraged our kids to show kindness in different ways (to a friend, to a stranger, to themselves, to a pet, etc.).
  • The kind acts began — and I use that term lightly 🙂 — to filter into the kids’ relationships with each other.

In our house, kindness counts. It’s a family value and now it’s become something we all practice daily.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, CT. She is also a mom to a 15, 13, 10 and 5-year-old.