Bullying

Know the Signs

Many children are bullied by their peers and having a visible difference such as psoriatic disease can make them a target. Learn the signs and what to do about it.

 
A teenage girl in the foreground looking upset while a teenage boy and girl in the background point and laugh while looking at a cell phone.

Sometimes kids with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis become targets for teasing or bullying because they’re perceived as being different. Bullying can take many forms such as:

  • Physical (hitting, punching, beating)
  • Verbal (teasing, name calling or making threats)
  • Emotional intimidation or social exclusion
  • Cyberbullying (harassment, impersonation, digital abuse) through social platforms, text, apps, forums or online gaming communities.

To help address bullying remember the three “R’s”: Recognize. Respond. Report.

Recognize

How do you know if your child is being bullied? Recognizing the signs is the first step towards taking action against bullying.

Take a short quiz to see if your child exhibits possible signs of bullying.

Respond

Bullying can make your child feel helpless and they may not ask for help. They fear retaliation or being rejected by peers. They don’t want to be seen as weak or as someone who tells on others. Despite such feelings, there are actions you as a parent can take.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk with your child about the situation and how they could respond positively. Initiate a conversation with your child by trying one or more of the following questions:

  • Are there any kids who tease or make fun of your psoriasis?
  • Are there any kids who make fun of you when you can’t keep up or do things like they do because of your psoriatic arthritis?
  • Are there any kids who purposefully leave you out or are afraid of catching something from you?
  • Do you have any special friends this year? Who do you hang out with and why are they special to you?
  • Are there any kids you don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they pick on you?

Be sure not to overreact during your conversation. Obtain what details you can about who, what, when and where in case you need to report the incident. Show empathy and assure your child that you love them and it’s not their fault. Let your child know it’s OK to ask for help and that bullying is not OK.

Icon illustration of a fist.

Physically engaging a bully is also not OK since someone could get hurt. Encourage your child to ignore the encounter when possible and ask for help. You are there to help them.

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It is also not a good idea to speak with the bully’s parent(s) since most parents prefer not to hear bad things about their child. If you do choose to speak with the parent(s) choose a neutral environment or, if appropriate, discuss the incident with school staff.

Icon illustration of a computer.

If your child is engaged in social media, monitor their use. Cyberbullying is real and in some cases is harmful and has led to suicide. Many states and/or schools now have antibullying laws or policies which may include cyberbullying offenses. Learn more about laws and policies in your state.

Bullying can increase your child’s stress level, which may make psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis worse and more challenging to treat. As psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis become worse, that unfortunately can exacerbate the bullying. Help your child learn coping skills to address bullying, which will also help reduce the stress. Effective coping skills that you can teach your child include meditation, deep breathing, positive self-talk, and journaling.

[For future: insert link to responding to bullying short video with Jonathan Scott]

Self Harm

Being bullied can have a lasting impact on your child unless steps are taken to counter such impact. Children who experience verbal or physical bullying are at greater risk of developing depression or self-destructive behaviors.: If your child exhibits self-destructive behaviors such as harming themselves, call your doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor as soon as possible. If your child talks about suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for immediate assistance by calling or sending a text to 988.

Report

After speaking with your child, and if bullying is occurring at school, take the following actions:

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Talk with the staff at your child’s school. Set an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher(s), counselor(s) or principal. They can have a better understanding of the peer relationships your child has at school.

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During the meeting, share your concerns. Ask if they have noticed any unusual behavior and how your child gets along with other students.

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Speak with other staff who interact with your child at school to see if they’ve seen your child being bullied, or ask the teacher to talk with other school staff on your behalf.

Many times, providing education about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can help your child gain allies. When speaking with your child’s teacher or principal, offer to provide information or a presentation about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to help your child’s classmates and school staff gain a better understanding of the disease and its impact. Use the presentation to dispel myths about psoriatic disease such as the common misconception that it is contagious. (Which it is not!)

Resources such as picture books and a power point presentation are available through the National Psoriasis Foundation to help you as a parent, or a school nurse, provide education to classmates and school staff. 

Stay alert for changes that could indicate a serious problem and the need to seek help from a child psychologist. Ask your child’s dermatologist or rheumatologist for a referral or visit Psychology Today to find a child therapist.

Resources

A boy sits outside of school after being bullied.

'I Wish I Had Said Something'

Read this feature in Advance Online with Catherine Sanderson, Ph.D., author of “Why We Act,” on how we witness and experience bullying.

Read more
A couple sit on a couch in their living room, using a laptop and phone to watch and listen to media.

Recognition Starts With You

Listen to this Psound Bytes™ podcast episode with renowned psychologist Dr. Catherine Sanderson as she addresses bullying that impacts youth and adults.

Listen now
A woman takes notes next to her laptop while sitting in her home.

More Resources

For more information about bullying and what you can do to prevent it visit StopBullying.gov or PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.

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