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Social Checkup for Kids: February 17, 2011

They listen to the heart. Check the vital signs. Feel for any aches and pains. Now, pediatricians are adding another thing to their checklist when performing a routine physical exam. “We actually routinely ask kids once they start to be in school if they have had a problem with a bully or bullying themselves. That’s a big deal,” says Dr. Eric Jones, a pediatrician on the medical staff of The Children’s Hospital.

With more and more cases on the rise, Dr. Jones believes its not only hurting the child socially but physically too. “We have more and more issues with bullying, serious bullying than we have in the past. Part of that is access to information. I can send you a text that will bully you and not even see you face to face and have it be just as damaging if not more.”

Bullying can lead to stress and anxiety, while some children try and hide the situation from their parents, there are signs that a child may be under stress. “They really have physical complaints instead of psychological ones. Most of the time they’re not telling you, ‘I feel depressed. Or I feel stress.’ It’s more. ‘I don’t feel good or I have a belly ache or my ear hurts or any of those kind of physical complaints.’”

A visit with the pediatrician can actually help the child with both physical and emotional symptoms. Dr. Jones has seen it firsthand “9 out of 10 of them will have admitted to being bullied or be the bully at some point in the last year. That ranges from someone making fun of your clothes or shoes to more serious issues: physical violence.”

He often counsels both the child and the parents when it comes to a bullying situation. “We try to talk about that and most of the time it boils down to feeling threatened by some other person or reason” If your child is complaining about headaches, stomach problems, or is sleeping or withdrawing from activities, a visit with the pediatrician may be in order to help determine if there’s a physical or social problem.