Bullying changes when school is over and the summer begins as summertime bullies show up.
In the community, bullies are less supervised and their days are less structured. This can accelerate the severity or pace of bullying because adults are not consistently present to keep peace and order.
Here are some tips on how to prevent summertime bullying:
Bullies typically have some impulse control problems and the lack of structure that often accompanies summertime leaves them to be ruled by their less flattering and more harmful impulses and behaviors.
It becomes easier for unsupervised older youth to bully different or passive youth in the neighborhood. The answer to this is structured activities for youth supervised by adults during the summer break from school. Big Brothers and Big Sisters is an example of a very effective prevention program of this type.
Some children who are bullies are on medication for ADHD and are given a “drug holiday” for the summer. This may not be best for a youth that is a bully and parents should consult a physician before stopping any medication. Youth that have had bullying problems during the school year can be referred for counseling during the summer, also. Most will need family counseling because a counselor works best when she teams up with parents to help a youth solve problems.
A drop-in center with lots of interesting activities, counseling and job search services would be helpful for many young people. These could be run by community (YMCA) or faith organizations. With many adults out of work, the government could hire unemployed adults to assist in these centers. It would reduce summer crime and in that way, pay for itself.
Bullies may or may not have access to their usual targets when school is out. They may have to look for new targets in their neighborhood, which could include very young children. Day care centers need to be universal to protect unsupervised young children from bullies, drugs, violence and crime in the neighborhood. As an example, money spent on Head Start type programs with parent involvement are effective delinquency prevention programs. When looking at long term financial strategies, they are cost effective.
Bullies in the community are at risk to join gangs. They are often not successful at home, in school, or among their peers and are looking for a place where they can feel they belong. Sometimes they are encouraged to join a gang because of their aggressive nature. Additionally, bullies may be looking for a way to earn money in the summertime and they may look at drug sales as a way to do that. Since gangs often run the drug trade in a particular neighborhood, this may lead them in the direction of joining a gang, also.
If gangs can attract bullies in the wrong direction, then pro-social, adult led groups need to learn to attract young people as effectively in the other direction. Youth are looking for activities so they won’t be bored; fun so they can be happy; affiliation with peers because that is their developmental task; jobs to make some spending money; someone to help them solve problems; a caring, non-judgmental adult with whom to talk; and someone to explain the opposite sex to them. The greater the availability of these activities in the communities where youth live, the better are their chances to have a real choice about which path to take in their lives.
Governments cannot accomplish these tasks alone. Those of us in the community need to give of our time and/or resources to see that all children are supervised, fed, and well taken care of all summer. We must give them good models of appropriate behavior. Include the left-out child in your next supervised activity. Show a bully that there are other ways to solve problems and get his needs met. Show your child that reaching out a helping hand can sometimes change a bully.
Dr. Kathryn Seifert has had over 30 years experience in mental health, addictions, and criminal justice work. She is the author of How Children Become Violent and has a number of interviews on CNN on her website at http://www.drkathyseifert.com
She founded Eastern Shore Psychological Services, a multidisciplinary private practice that specializes in working with high-risk youth and their families. She writes and lectures nationally and internationally on the topics of violence, risk assessment, sex offenders, suicide prevention, school based mental health programs, and stress management.
She advocates for the highest quality services for all children needing mental health treatment and to prevent bullying.