What to do when your child is being bulliedJanuary 29, 2020
Bullying is every parent’s nightmare. Modern technology brings new challenges of online bullying and increasing pressure from social media, which has brought new attention to bullying in today’s schools. We want our children to have supportive and kind peers, so of course it’s devastating to find out they are being bullied. We’ve pulled together some helpful resources to identify bullying and to address the situation, so that your children can have the supportive environment we all want for them.
Children who recognize bullying are less likely to be victims
Children who understand what bullying is are better able to identify if it’s happening to them. When a child has the shared vocabulary to describe what’s going on, they can ask for help from trusted adults. Proactively talking to your children about what bullying and cyberbullying look and feel like can prepare them to reach out in case it comes up. Opening the line of communication around this subject early is important, so that your child feels welcome to talk to you if they become a target of a bully.
Not all bullying looks the same
Bullying can happen in many different ways and can range from teasing or exclusion to physical assaults. Bullying often presents differently for boys and girls, with girls experiencing greater rumour spreading or manipulation and boys experiencing more aggressive teasing. For some forms of bullying, it may be obvious to you as a parent that something is wrong. For other forms, the signs are less clear. Some clues that might loop you in to the bullying are: if your child has stopped wanting to go to school, if they complain of somatic symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches frequently, or if they lose interest in social situations.
It’s important to talk to your child about what you notice
If you notice signs of bullying, but your child hasn’t directly said anything to you, it’s still important to let them know you’re available to talk. It is best to choose a less stressful time to open this conversation, perhaps not right before or after the event that you suspect the bullying is happening at. You might let your child know what you have noticed and see how they feel about the conversation. If they aren’t able to talk with you at that time, remind them that they can speak to you or another adult they trust if something is wrong.
Your child might need extra support
Children can feel like if they looked or acted differently, the bullying would stop. These feelings erode self-esteem and make it even harder to talk about. It’s important to praise your child for opening up about the subject, because it probably took a lot for them to get there. Reassure your child that they aren’t alone, and that you can handle it together. It’s best to go to the school first as the teachers or counselors will have a protocol for bullying. For your child, try to make a plan for them to avoid their bully and to hang out with other friends when they can in the meantime.
The school has a responsibility to step in
Don’t be afraid to turn to your child’s school for help. New York state has created anti-bullying policy that covers bullying at school and cyberbullying. NY school districts are responsible for creating their own policies and procedures to create an environment that is free from harassment for all students. The regulations dictate that there must be a designated individual at your child’s school who handles all reports. Additionally, it mandates each report must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. All NYC teachers must complete training to be able to identify bullying and act proactively to eliminate the hostile environment.
Restore their confidence
Being bullied can feel embarrassing, demeaning, and scary. It’s a serious scenario, which can affect your child’s mental health. It’s important to take steps to restore your child’s self-confidence after the experience in order to set them back on a positive developmental path. Continue to talk with your child about how they are feeling, and offer praise for their bravery in speaking out throughout the process. If possible, create opportunities for playdates and social interactions with other friends that you trust to be kind to your child to rebuild their social confidence. This process can take time, and your child will need your support!
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