Advice Column, Child, Education, Health, Home Education, Lifestyle, Parenting, Tween & Teen

How bullying can affect your child’s mental health

  • Impaq
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Education, Health, Home Education, Lifestyle, Parenting, Tween & Teen

We’ve all heard the saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. But recent research shows that that is not the case. In their book Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman write: “A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” The saying would perhaps then be more accurate if changed to sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can change my brain.

Blocking out the bad

Penny Evans and her daughter Jessie experienced this firsthand after Jessie was bullied in Grade 1. In her first year of being exposed to academic work, Jessie was bullied as she was unable to grasp certain terms in Mathematics. “She literally hated the subject to such an extent that she mindfully and intentionally blocked it out,” Penny explains. Jessie was moved to a different class, but the learning barrier was created and remained in place. Penny was concerned that an anxiety disorder had started forming. 

When Jessie was in Grade 5, she was diagnosed with Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and was admitted to hospital and given medication. Unfortunately, the medication didn’t work, and Jessie kept having relapses. That was until a doctor pointed out the severe anxiety and stress Jessie’s education and social relationships caused her. “Her extreme fears were a trigger for her seizures,” Penny explains.

Bullying can lead to several problems

Bullying behaviour has been found to lead to several problems, including:

  • low self-esteem, 
  • low academic performance, 
  • high rates of absenteeism, 
  • insecurity, 
  • anxiety and depression. 

Homeschooling provides an alternative option

“I was then told about homeschooling and called tutors in my area who explained the process to me.” Penny registered Jessie with Impaq and enlisted the help of a tutor to educate Jessie. “It has been two months now and the turnaround in my child is significant, I am speechless and left with no way to explain except with the word BRILLIANT.” In the last two months, Jessie has only had one mini seizure. She has become interested in schoolwork even Mathematics and wakes up in the morning wanting to learn. Jessie’s marks for tasks has improved from 50% to 85%.

Penny contributes these changes to Jessie’s tutors and Impaq’s programme, which Penny says is easy to follow and understand. “Impaq changed my baby’s life, not only hers but mine as well, as a mother I am at ease and have peace of mind that my child is excelling and on top of that her health has improved significantly. Thanks to Impaq, my little girl is happy again, laughing, smiling and a real chatterbox so excited to tell me what she learned for the day.”

Coping strategies

If your child is struggling with anxiety issues some coping strategies can help ease your child’s fears, including:

  • drawing, painting or writing down their worries,
  • encouraging exercise, 
  • engaging in meditation,
  • seeking professional help, and
  • considering alternative education options like homeschooling.

This article was supplied by Impaq Education which provides all the products, services and tools you need to educate your child at home from Grade R to Grade 12.

Article by Elmien Ackerman


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  • Shilpa Garg November 6, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Oh, Bullying is so common in schools and it is a serious threat which can have long lasting effects on mental health. Being bullied frequently by other children can be pretty traumatic. Bullying behavior should be taken seriously by teachers and parents and an early intervention is a must.
    I am so glad that Penny coped well and recovered from anxiety issues, thanks to the efforts of her mom and teachers at Impaq Education.

  • Rajlakshmi November 7, 2019 at 4:00 am

    awww little baby. Kids can be so mean at times. I am surprised the teachers didn’t do anything about the bullying. I didn’t know seizures can be induced by anxiety too. I am glad her parents found a solution before more damage was done. This is a wonderful message for parents to be mindful of.

  • Leana Lourens November 7, 2019 at 5:59 am

    Hi there. This is so sad to know that children have to go through bullying. And some parents unfortunately don’t care enough to notice it. I am so thankful that there are help out there for not only children but adults as well❤️

  • Nicole Steyn November 8, 2019 at 5:33 am

    I’m so glad that this research is starting to make a difference in kid’s lives. Bullying can be super traumatic at such a young age that affects you long after you leave school. Jessie’s story is inspiring and it makes me so happy to see that she’s now thriving in the right environment.

  • Lynne Huysamen November 8, 2019 at 7:48 am

    It is so sad that bullying is so prevalent. In the last few weeks (since the beginning of Term 4) my boy in Grade R has been bullied when we have never had a problem before. It breaks my heart to see him being treated like this. I’ve taken it up with the school (in a big way) and the problem is being addressed.
    However like you say the damage has been done and for the whole of last week my son came home every day and went to sleep on the couch in front of the tv for hours – refusing to even get up for supper. He also told me every day he does not want to go to school and when I said he must go he said he won’t play outside, he will sit in the class room instead during outside play time. He also got very aggressive with me and hit me.
    Now this behaviour may not sound bad, but my son is usually a ray of sunlight. An active boy that loves school, he loves playing, he is loving and kind. He has also not had any afternoon naps since he was 2 or 3 years old and he is now nearly 6.
    This says to me loud and clear that he has been very badly traumatized by these incidents.

  • Vidya Sury November 8, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Bullying, unfortunately, is an integral part of our lives right from when we’re kids to adults at the workplace and within families. And while that quote about words not hurting may hold true for some situations, words definitely hurt. Even the ones we tell ourselves. My heart goes out to that kid. It’s quite sad that it can be tough to speak up, especially for the little ones.
    Impaq is amazing at all that they do! And as far as bullying is concerned, homeschooling is an excellent option. I also like the coping strategies you have listed! Most of all children must be encouraged to communicate. Such a valuable post, Julie!


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