For many of us, teasing by children while participating in physical activity may not seem like a big deal. Most of us have memories of being teased in gym class because of the way we ran, missed a catch, or being unable to climb the rope. Perhaps you were the last one picked for a team or didn’t make it through tryouts to be on a team. Is being teased sometimes during gym, recess, sports, or dance classes just part of growing up?
A recent study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology suggests that teasing during physical activity is not that innocent and causes lasting effects on children. The study gave three questionnaires to 108 fourth and fifth grade students and then followed up with another questionnaire one year later. The questionnaires measured physical activity, teasing during the activity, and health-related quality of life.
The results of the study showed that overweight and obese children who were teased during physical activity had lower scores of health-related quality of life one year later. Even more interesting was that the study showed that ALL children who were teased during physical activity were at increased risk of being less active one year later. Simply put, if your child is teased while being physically active, it may decrease their quality of life and decrease their physical activity one year later.
So what should you do when your child comes from school, practice, or a game upset that someone was teasing them?
Listen and let your child tell the whole story. Try to be understanding, and communicate that you understand and care about what happened to your child. Validate his or her feelings about what the other person during the incident.
If teasing has become a problem, then it's time to find the right the person to talk to about what is going on such as a school's staff, teacher, or coach. They may or may not know the teasing is occurring, but they may be able to prevent future teasing and/or address the teasing with the initiator.
This is probably the forgotten step and maybe the most important. It's like falling off a bike; you have to help your child get back on. This could be hard for both you and your child because it is hard to see your child upset, but it is important to help your child continue to be physically active. You could let your child pick the activity.
So if the teasing occurred during gym class, your child should continue to participate in gym class, but also see about signing them up for a sport or dance class outside of school. That way, your child can be physically active in an environment that's more comfortable, doing an enjoyable activity, and potentially making new friends.
Teasing may seem like it's not a big deal, but it can have a huge impact on your child's life and needs your attention. It IS a big deal! So if your child is being teased during physical activity: listen, advocate, and reengage back into physical activity.
Have a question for the Healthy Kids panel? Ask it here.