Therapist offers tips to stop bullying among students with parents of opposing COVID safety views

Missouri

FLORISSANT, Mo. – Tracie Berry-McGhee of Imani Therapy in Florissant says she is seeing more bullying among schoolchildren triggered by parents’ fighting each other during meetings on COVID safety measures. 

“Some of it is unfortunately due to our parent’s opinions why a person should wear a mask or why not,”  Berry-McGhee said.

Berry-McGhee says, some kids do not take a position. They simply take cheap shots at each other.

“You only see your eyes or your hair. So, it allows people to focus in on those areas and they are not being kind. It can lead to infection because someone takes off their mask because one kid told them that they don’t look right. Public humiliation is real,” Berry-McGhee said.  

She says it can also lead to thoughts of suicide. 

Berry-McGhee says some children who are targets of bullying suddenly write on their hands and arms. She says children can also struggle with changes in their eating and sleeping habits.

All these things mean parents need to do something, immediately. But, what?  

Berry-McGhee recommends starting with carefully observing children’s social media use. She does the same for the students she has sessions with at school. 

“We talk to the kids over and over again about the things they post and the comments that they make,” Berry-McGhee said.  

She also says parents can teach their kids to have compassion for their classmates, no matter their beliefs, and even in a heated situation.  

“Understanding they may be hurting, or their parents may have told them to react to this in a certain way,” Berry-McGhee said.  

Also, parents can teach their children how to set and maintain boundaries. 

“We have to talk to them about being able to stand up and advocate for themselves in a respectful way,” Berry-McGhee said.  

Finally, some kids are not the targets. They are witnesses. Berry-McGhee says parents can teach these children what to do next. 

“If you see a kid being bullied, stand up or tell someone. But most importantly, don’t keep this to yourself,” Berry-McGhee said. 

Berry-McGhee recommends parents use the acronym MASK, from Dr. Brett Enneking of Riley Children’s Health: 

  • Model mask-wearing or others. 
  • Ask for help if you’re being bullied. 
  • Stand up for yourself and others. 
  • Keep a reminder of “why”. 

For that last principle, she urges children to remember that we are still in a pandemic and that mask-wearing can be life-saving. 

Learn more at visit the organization’s website.

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