School Stress Due to Bullying

Blue monster stressedA host of statistics suggests that American children are indeed experiencing stress at new levels.

Suicides among adolescents have quadrupled since the 1950s, and in the past decade, using medications to treat emotional disorders have shot up 68 percent for girls, and 30 percent for boys.

No matter what your age, stress is not good for the brain. While we all know that adult stress can lead to serious ailments such as ulcers and hypertension, we don’t associate these illnesses with children.

But research shows that chronically stressed children are at risk of cognitive damage because their brains are not yet fully developed.

Stress caused by bullying can take many forms, such as hitting, teasing or name-calling, intimidation using gestures or social exclusion and sending insulting messages by phone or computer.

Stress in the Brain     

Bullying causes stress, and when a child experiences stress, the hypothalamus (above the brain stem) releases a hormone that rushes to the neighboring pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then mobilizes the production of a second hormone that swims via the bloodstream to adrenal glands above the kidneys. The adrenal glands activate adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline accelerates the child’s heart rate and elevates the blood pressure. Cortisol pumps up the blood sugar level, raising the child’s muscle and memory power and boosting the pain threshold.

So what’s wrong with that, you ask? Our fight-or-flight stress reaction is designed for emergency life-or-death situations, and not to be turned on for extended periods of time.

What happens when the brain is under stress?

Research shows that cortisol, specifically, chews up the brain if it loiters there long-term. When lab rats in Israel, Germany, USA, China, and Italy were given daily injections of rat cortisol for several weeks, it killed brain cells in their hippocampus region, leaving them depressed, anxious, fearful, immature, needy, and unable to learn new behaviors.

Chronic stress takes its toll on the brain in other ways as well.

Children’s fast-developing brains with dendrites numbering in the millions were particularly vulnerable to ravages of cortisol. Study after study has found that children who are exposed to extremely stressful situations such as violence or bullying in the home or at school have significantly lower IQs than children not exposed to such traumas.

A joint study between Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital and Catholic University of Korea in 2009 found that children who experienced maternal verbal abuse had lowered verbal IQs and less white matter in their brains. (White matter affects learning by coordinating communication between distinct regions of the brain.)

It’s also important to note, these experts say, that it appears that damage to children’s brains caused by stress might not be permanent. “Stress effects are not ‘brain damage’ but reversible or treatable,” claims Bruce McEwen, neuroendocrinology researcher at The Rockefeller University.

A powerful antidote

“Exercise,” says McEwen, physical activity stimulates hippocampus growth, and group exercise with team sports like soccer and games like tag fosters neuron development.

“Exercise is one of the best things children can do to combat stress. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.” Monica R. Fleshner, Ph.D., integrative physiologist at the University of Colorado, also agrees, explaining, “Maintaining regular physical activity is one way to help promote both stress resistance and stress resilience.”

Be knowledgeable and observant

Teachers and administrators need to be aware that although bullying generally happens in areas such as the bathroom, playground, crowded hallways, and school buses as well as via cell phones and computers (where supervision is limited or absent), it must be taken seriously.

Teachers and administrators should emphasize that telling is not tattling. If a teacher observes bullying in a classroom, he/she needs to intervene immediately to stop it, record the incident and inform the appropriate school administrators so the incident can be investigated. Having a joint meeting with the bullied student and the student who is bullying is not recommended — it is embarrassing and very intimidating for the student that is being bullied.

Schools and classrooms must offer students a safe learning environment. Teachers and coaches need to remind explicitly students that bullying is not accepted in school, and such behaviors will have consequences. Creating an anti-bullying document and having both the student and the parents/guardians sign and return it to the school office helps students understand the seriousness of bullying.

Also, for students who have a hard time adjusting or finding friends, teachers and administrators can facilitate friendships or provide “jobs” for the student to do during lunch and recess so that children do not feel isolated or in danger of becoming targets for bullying.

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The Impact of Bullying

Bullying was once considered a simple, harmless rite of childhood experienced by many students. Today, research shows that bullying has significant short- and long-term effects that impact education, health and safety.

  1. Education – Bullying can negatively impact a child’s access to education and lead to:
  • School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism
  • Decrease in grades
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of interest in academic achievement
  • Increase in dropout rates
  1. Health – Bullying can also lead to physical and mental health problems, including:
  • Headaches and stomachaches
  • Sleeping problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased fear or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress
  1. Safety – Bullying also impacts student sense of well-being, such as:
  • Self-isolation
  • Increased aggression
  • Self-harm and suicidal ideation
  • Feeling of alienation at school
  • Fear of other students
  • Retaliation

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Pete’s Monster ~ My New Friend

Pete’s Monster My New Friend, is a continuation from the first book called Pete’s Monster.

In the first book, the story ends with Pete escorts the Blue Monster to live in his older brother George’s bedroom. Even though the Blue Monster had not caused Pete any harm or concern for him to be afraid of the Blue Monster. Pete wanted the Monster out from under his bed and George’s room seemed the obvious place for the Monster to stay.

It wasn’t till in the second book, Pete’s Monster ~ My New Friend, that we watch a friendship grow.

PETE's MONSTER_My New Friend COVER resizedThe Blue Monster knocks at Pete’s bedroom door one night and asks to return to sleeping under Pete’s bed. Pete is happy that the Monster wants to come back as he missed his companion, the Blue Monster. His new friend.

Pete leaves his bedroom after lights out against his Mother’s orders. He goes into the kitchen to get his new Monster friend something to eat, after the Monster tells Pete that he is hungry.

Pete’s Monster ~ My New Friend is also a rhyming storybook. It subtly and creatively covers the topic of friendship and was created to inform children at an early age that a friend can be of any size, shape or color.

The moral in the first Pete’s Monster book is that you should never lash out and hurt anyone, (bullying) because the true person who gets hurt the most could end up being you as you could be labeled as a bully at school and no one will want to be your friend.


Please enjoy reading Pete’s Monster and if you have any questions, please contact us.

Pete's Monster kindle edition

Pete's Monster available on Amazon