Published March 13, 2012
Bullying can make daily life extremely difficult for children and can even affect them for their whole lives. Here is a guide on what to do if you think your child may be bullied:
If your child is being bullied, he or she is not alone. Thousands of children report being bullied each school year. Bullying comes in many different forms, including physical violence and attacks, verbal abuse, intimidating threats and stealing money. Online bullying also comes in different forms and can occur through instant messaging, e-mail and social media sites.
Tommy Walser, founder of the non-profit organization The Bullying Academy, says that there is no single cause behind a bully’s motivations. Kids are targeted for a wide variety of reasons, such as socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity and religious background. Children can also be bullied for their appearance or interests. “Bullies will search for any perceived difference between the target and themselves that they can exploit,” explains Walser.
Open the discussion
Children who are bullied may be reluctant to discuss the bullying. They might feel embarrassed, at fault or even scared that the bullying will escalate if it’s revealed. If you think that your child is reticent to talk about being bullied, you can try a subtle approach to opening a discussion. “Its best not to use the words bullying,” he says, ”because for many being the target of bullying is associated with weakness or negativity.” Try discussing topics like your child’s relationships with friends or a recent occurrence of bullying or harassment in the media. Even if your son or daughter does not open up about bullying right away, you have begun opening an important line of communication.
If your kid does start speaking about being bullied, stay consistently supportive, and commend your child for sharing with you. Make sure to let your child know that he or she did nothing wrong, and you will handle the bullying together.
Provide comfort and advice
Putting a stop to bullying is not as immediate as many of us would like, but you can provide tips for avoiding the harassment. In the case of bullying over the Internet, or cyber-bullying, you can walk your child through privacy settings or discuss temporarily abstaining from the online activity to avoid the bully. Encourage your child to use the buddy system at school. Try to teach your child how to cool down in response to bullying, as reacting may just encourage the bully. Experts recommends removing the bully’s incentives. For example, if a bully keeps stealing your child’s lunch money, you may want to start packing a lunch. You should stress that there is nothing shameful about the high road. Children should also be reminded that even if these fail, they are in no way responsible for being bullied.
Approach the school
Your first avenue to stop the bullying should be the school. While your son or daughter may beg you to keep the whole thing under wraps, adult intervention is a necessary part of ending bullying. Discuss the situation with your child’s teachers and principal, and make clear that you want tangible, immediate efforts. Remind the teachers that your child may not be the only one who is being bullied. Familiarize yourself with the school’s bullying policies, as well as any relevant state laws. If you think your child may be in danger, you may also wish to contact legal authorities. Whomever you approach, you should know the name of the bully and specific instances of bullying.
What to avoid
Parents should listen calmly and carefully to their children–this means do not overreact. Screaming or crying may just intimidate your child and possibly hinder future communication. Discovering that your child is being bullied is an undoubtedly emotional experience for you, but your child’s comfort should come first. Parents should also take their children seriously. Do not laugh off the situation or accuse your child of exaggerating, or again, they may shut down completely. Your primary goal is to show your child that you understand the challenges of being bullied, and you will be there to stop it as a team.