Anti-bullying is focus of Picatinny Arsenal’s Month of the Military Child campaign

By Eric KowalApril 27, 2023

Bullying comes in various forms including physical, verbal, emotional and over the internet. Parents should let their children know it’s safe to talk to them about bullying and pick up on warning signs such as changes in behavior or disinterest in attending school. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter/RELEASED)
Bullying comes in various forms including physical, verbal, emotional and over the internet. Parents should let their children know it’s safe to talk to them about bullying and pick up on warning signs such as changes in behavior or disinterest in attending school. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter/RELEASED) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

April is the Month of the Military Child

The Month of the Military Child observance recognizes and honors the role military children play in the armed forces community. This year’s observance has the theme, “Military Children and Youth: Honoring the Past, Treasuring the Present, and Shaping the Future.”

“I call upon the people of the United States to honor the children of our service members and veterans with appropriate ceremonies and activities,” President Joe Biden said in Proclamation 10541, dated March 31, 2023. “I also encourage Americans everywhere to find ways to support military-connected children, including by wearing purple during the month of April in honor of their service,” the U.S. President added.

Since April 1986, the U.S. Army has observed the Month of the Military Child to recognize the support military children provide their Soldiers and families. The Army is committed to helping the nation understand how important military children are, no matter where they are stationed, by offering programs to ensure Army children are healthy and resilient. Those programs include childcare, before and after-school programs, summer care and camps, school-age services, tutoring, babysitter training, nutrition and health classes, and youth sports.

However, just like children of civilians may experience bullying in school and or in online environments, military children often also fall victim to similar situations. The challenges of moving from installation to installation can be trying for youth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”

Picatinny Arsenal officials recently visited several neighboring public schools to help foster a partnership between school administrators and the Picatinny Arsenal Command Team and Child and Youth Services (CYS), in an effort to help tackle some of the challenges these youngsters may be experiencing.

Because students from military families who live in Picatinny housing are typically enrolled in these schools, the team from Picatinny coordinated the visits to get a better understanding of how they can assist each other.

Throughout these tours, school administrators showcased various programs that each school offers, as well as engaged in discussions about current challenges that students sometimes face.

“Military families, especially the kids, go through difficult transitions when moving to a new duty location,” Burgos said. “One thing we learned was that the New Jersey education system is number one in the country, which at times means that students that relocate here for the first time might not be at the academic level of their peers. So, understanding what the schools have to offer these students to support their development, is critical in making sure the transition is not as stressful as it could be,” the garrison commander added.

The Army is fully dedicated to building and maintaining family resiliency by offering a variety of programs and services through the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s Child and Youth Services (CYS).

“The Youth Sponsorship Program is present at all Army CYS programs, including here at the Picatinny Arsenal Teen Center, and is designed to help military youth transition from one installation to the next,” said Amanda Dizinno, Assistant Director, Picatinny CYS. “It provides incoming youth with a sponsor who currently attends the program and/or school and that sponsor will take that incoming youth around and help them feel comfortable in their new community. The great part about this program is the youth are paired up based on their own interests and helps foster those positive peer-to-peer relationships.”

The CYS mission is to integrate and deliver base support to reduce the conflict between parental responsibilities and unit mission requirements that enable combat readiness for a globally responsive Army.

“The Teen Center at Picatinny provides youth ages 11-18 an opportunity to participate in a wide variety of programs and special events,” Dizinno said. “The Center also fosters a sense of belonging within the community and often highlights the importance of Resilience and Youth Mental Health.

The Teen Center has multiple staff employees who are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and the Ready and Resilient Program. Staff members are trained to identity, understand, and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adolescents as well as better support young people overall. This training is applied with the youth that attend through various programs and experiential learning opportunities. There are also training sessions and workshops offered to parents of children/youth that attend the program through a number of different resources such as Military One Source, the Master Resilience Program, and through CYS social media.

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.

Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by discussing it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.

During the installation’s Bring Your Child to Work Day event on April 27, Picatinny’s Army Community Services office will be onsite to have a resource table for children about bullying and self-esteem.

Signs your child is being bullied.

Children react in different ways when being bullied. Early warning signs may include children saying that other children or groups of children are being mean, do not like them, are gossiping or making hurtful comments, or perhaps manipulating them in some way. In addition to these comments, be on the lookout for changes in behavior. A child who is being bullied may experience one or more of the following:

Unexplainable physical injuries such as bruises, cuts, and scratches

Frequent headaches and stomachaches

Increased mood swings, tears, and tantrums, or aggressive or unreasonable behavior

Changes in sleep patterns

Declining grades or a lack of interest in attending school or social functions.

Changes in eating patterns, including loss of appetite, overeating, or coming home from school hungry.

Lost or damaged clothing or possessions, including schoolbooks, electronics, money, and jewelry.

It’s acceptable for parents to step in when they see changes in behaviors, moods or how their children talk about friends. Take steps to engage with your children to get to the root of their worries.

How to help a child being bullied

If you’re concerned that your child may be getting bullied, there are several tools and resources to help you explore the situation and address the unwanted behavior:

Ask specific questions to gain a better understanding about school and social situations. Examples include:

Who do you socialize with on the bus/at lunch/during recess?

Do you sit with the same children every day? If your friends aren’t around, is there anyone else you would hang out with?

Does anyone get picked on or called names on the bus, at recess, in the halls or in restrooms? Has this ever happened to you?

Do you feel safe? If not, where do you feel unsafe?

Listen to their answers and acknowledge any difficult situations. Ask if they would like your help with the situation. This choice offers them a feeling of control in a situation in which they believe there is no control. Let them know your help could include talking to a teacher, engaging the parents of the bullying child or brainstorming ways for them to solve the problem on their own.

Be sure they understand where they can turn for help if someone or something is bothering them — at home, at school or on the bus. This includes other trusted adults if you are not available, whether it be a teacher or counselor at school or a bus driver if they are off school property.

Consult with their school’s administration if the bullying occurs during school hours, on school property or on the school bus. Administrators are required to protect the identity of students.

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