By Dr. Antonia Torrens, PhD Educational Psychologist
In the last few days, with the gradual return of the students to schools there has been increased discussion on primarily school-based bullying. For many students, this have been triggered by the use of masks
Why? Wasn’t it enough that we all felt terrified and isolated at home? Additionally, some of us have lost loved ones and surely all of us feel an uncertainty about tomorrow – all of these factors impacting our mental health.
No, apparently all of this was not enough. I believe there are two main factors that have contributed to masks as a cause for bullying. The first, has to do with the very nature of childhood and adolescence, which is a bit reckless and frivolous in handing problems that may arise. The second reason has to do with the very nature of bullying. That is, to aim to hurt anyone who has any characteristics that are out of the ordinary – for example the situation we’re discussing – or even anyone who doesn’t have any differentiating characteristics. The student that bullies other students often feels the need to torture and hurt someone in order to cover up their own wounds, insecurities and emotional deficiencies. There are many resources on the topic of why student may bully their peer.
We should look at these incidents of bullying due to the use of masks and consider the responsibility that we as adults have to our children. Specifically, how we behave and how children see this as an example for how to live their lives.
The pandemic cased by the COVID-19 virus has caused many substantial changes in many situations and routines of our daily life. It has impacted not only in our physical interactions, but also our mental health. No one knows when it will end or what the effects of this situation will have on our already complex societal problems.
We must consider that now more than ever it is our responsibility to be a strong example on how to handle the difficult situations that life throws at us. It is incredibly significant for our children that we are calm and steady in our response. If you feel that the situation is difficult for you to handle, image how it must be for someone who has just started to understand what it means to live in this world.
Take some time to sit together and have a discussion. Explain to your child why it’s important that EVERYONE is careful and that EVERYONE should heed the advice of medical professionals and follow the measures set by the authorities. It is a very serious matter, and not a reason to tease or make fun of someone else. Those that behave in this way, that tease and demean others, are people that do not understand the severity of the issue. Additional, explain to your child why they should help in a situation where another child is being humiliated by someone.
It’s important to reinforce the ability for your child to stand up for themselves and others at this stage in their life. If it is not done at this stage, it is possible that as adults they will not have the courage to support their opinion and they may be more vulnerable to coercion from others – whomever they may be.