Bullying isn’t a new phenomenon. Every generation has experienced some form of it.
What is new? The mode of modern harassment and the availability of drugs that promise an escape.
Being Bullied Hurts
When teens today experience bullying, it’s often broadcast to the world. Technology allows bullies to share the teen’s most embarrassing moments with millions – in seconds. The torture is almost limitless, as well as ongoing. No longer is the scene replayed only in the bullied teen’s mind...again and again. It’s literally replayed on their peers’ phones countless times.
Even when bullying isn’t amplified by technology, it can eat away at a teen’s confidence and self esteem. From one attack to daily assaults, this malicious harassment can make even the most confident child wither. In an attempt to escape the pain, bullied teens often turn to drugs.
And now, more than ever, teens have easy access to drugs. The opioid crisis has demonstrated this. Painkillers are passed around like candy. Teens may even have their own prescription from a sports injury that they abuse in an effort to get high and escape.
Too often, parents don’t realize the severity of their teen’s situation.
What Parents Miss
Parents may or may not be aware of a bullying problem in their teen’s life. If they are aware of it, they might not realize it's creating a drug problem, too.
Parents often miss:
- Subtle Changes: Teens can be very stealthy. It’s easier than most parents think to hide drugs and their use. If a teen withdraws due to bullying and subsequent drug use, parents may attribute these changes to shyness, disinterest or “normal teen moodiness.”
Don’t assume you know the ins and outs of your teen’s behavior and the reasons behind it. Remain alert for changes, keep lines of communication open and intervene if you suspect a problem.
- Negative Influences: If a teen’s suffering from bullying, they may turn to other teens whom they feel can protect them. These might not be the best choices for friends. The teen may also start using drugs to seem tough.
Parents should keep close tabs on their teen’s peer group. If they become entangled with poor influences, treatment programs can help break them away from negative peer groups.
It’s also important to keep in mind that bullies themselves often struggle with drug abuse. We know that hurt people hurt people. Bullies are often cruel to other teens due to negative situations in their home lives. They may turn to drugs to try to cope with these hurts, as well as dump their pain on other teens in the form of bullying. The bullies need help, too.
- Opportunities to Intervene: Parents can play a significant role in putting a stop to bullying. Monitor teen online activities. Watch for signs of bullying. Remain alert for indications of bullying at extracurricular activities. Recognize it for what it is and speak with your teen about it.
Keep in mind they may be embarrassed to admit it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Stop bullying as soon as possible to break the cycle of bullying and drug abuse before it starts.
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