If there is anything worse than being bullied, it’s watching your child being bullied. We wish we could protect them every minute of the day, but many parents have to send them to public schools and they aren’t there the whole day to protect them like they want. We rely on school officials to act on our behalf and protect our children, but the newspapers are filled with tragic stories of teachers who looked the other way until it was too late. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to ensure you do everything possible to stop bullying and minimize the damage before things get too serious.
Are You Listening?
The signs your child is being bullied might be subtle—they may feel guilt or feel like they brought it on themselves and not want to talk about it. The first signs are usually changes in behavior. Watch out for little clues that may lead you to discover bullying such as a change in appetite, a normally talkative child becoming very quiet, or grades that are suddenly tanking. Something is going on. Understand they may be ashamed and reluctant to talk about it even to you as their parents or a trusted adult.
On the other hand, your child may tell you directly they are being bullied. If they’re telling you, they’re expecting a reaction. More importantly, they’re expecting some kind of action and not just brushing the problem aside. Claims of bullying may initially appear to be minor squabbles, but take all of these incidents seriously as they can become more intense as time goes on if left unchecked.
Should You Talk to Teachers and Administration?
This is a tricky question. If you can talk to teachers and administration and encourage them to intervene when they see a problem or potential bullying situation, you run the risk this will make the situation worse. But sometimes the potential benefit outweighs the risk. It’s important to stay calm and get them on your side. Think of it as recruiting them to be part of a team to help keep your child safe from harm.
Whose Side Are You On?
No matter who you’re talking to, you are acting as an advocate for your child’s rights and you should always take their side in any discussion. Don’t minimize the bullies’ behavior or blame the victim–and don’t let school officials do it either. Sadly, school administrators and board members are known for trying to minimize a situation and make it seem like it’s less important than it really is. Don’t let them do that. In fact, brushing things under the rug can seriously escalate the situation. Nip it in the bud right away. It’s also important that your child feels like you’re standing up for them and not minimizing their experience.
Are You Helping Build Support and Friends?
One way to support your child is to support forming friendships. That can be anything from formal parties to just being the cool house where everybody wants to hang out after school. Popular things like video games, sports equipment, and plenty of snacks can encourage your child to bring friends home and strengthen their relationships with their peers. The more friends they make, the more they’ll be insulated from bullying.
Is There Safety in Numbers?
Bullies are looking for those who are vulnerable and won’t fight back. The easiest way to do that is to choose an isolated victim. Also, if you haven’t noticed, bullies like to strike in numbers. They inherently understand how important it is to be in groups. Teach your child to avoid going places alone because there’s truth to the old adage that safety lies in numbers. Make them a less probable target by teaching them the importance of using the buddy system.
Are You Coaching Their Reaction?
What else can you teach your child that makes them a less desirable target? Hiding their emotions and not reacting. Walking away, when they can. What do bullies want? They want a reaction to their taunting and insults to get the emotional benefits of bullying other kids. And if they don’t get it, they’re going to start looking for someone else to pick on. Of course, that doesn’t solve the overall problem, but it can take the focus off your child.
What Is Your Child Good At?
Building someone’s self-esteem goes a long way to helping them deal with the effects of bullying. When someone has a strong sense of identity and self-worth, bullying still hurts, but it seems more bearable. Helping your child find something that they are good at can help build their self-esteem and possibly creates some kind of afterschool activity that discourages bullying. Maybe they have a knack for the piano. Maybe they are interested in dance class. Try to find that special something that your child is good at so they can meet other children who have the same interests. That adds to their support system.
There have been many studies that link childhood bullying to substance abuse or mental health problems. There have also been many tragic stories of kids who have committed suicide because they didn’t know how to handle bullying and parents who tried everything to stop it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. There are many things you can do to try to decrease the risk of having other kids pick on your child when you send them off to school. First, listen to what they tell you, whether they directly use the word bullying or tell you in different terms. They may not tell you at all but their behavior changes. Get other adults involved in the school system to help you look out for your child when you can’t protect them at school—the bigger the team, the more effective they are at preventing bullying. Support you child and encourage friendships and talents that will build their self-esteem. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we don’t only treat addiction, but we treat mental health issues as well. Call us at (800) 338-6925.