Written by Belinda Huang
Between one third and one quarter of students in the United States say they have been bullied, according to to 2011 statistics. Bullying happens most often in middle school, in face to face situations. But these statistics do not help when your child is the one being bullied. Knowing that your child is being targeted by a bully is hard. What can we do to stop the bullying from continuing? How can we reassure our child and make them feel safe? Here are three things to keep in mind.
Report instances of bullying to the people who need to know.
Sometimes children will tell their parents about bullying, and other times it is the teachers who observe and inform parents. However it happens, everyone relevant should be informed when bullying occurs. This includes teachers, administrators, and parents. A 2010 study of student strategies showed that getting consistent support from different people around them was one of the most positive ways to deal with bullying. It is usually better to handle bullying through the school than by confronting the bully or their parents individually. The school can make sure that their anti-bullying policy is followed so that the bully receives the help and discipline they need, and your child can feel safe at school. This all starts with reporting.
Build resilience by celebrating what makes your child different.
Bullying can be defined as one child trying to establish power and dominance over another, as explained in this video. Building self-esteem, resilience, and toughness is one of the best ways to help children take back their power after they have been bullied. Children who are different in some way are often easy targets. This includes reasons like sexual orientation or gender, weight, ethnicity, disability, and more. Help them understand that the bully’s actions does not say anything about their self-worth, ability, or personhood. Celebrate and empower your child to feel good about themselves. In fact, one strategy might be to help them find a place where their differences are positive, such as a club for children with similar interests. Here, they will find other people like them, allies, and also realize that they can be liked and appreciated for the very qualities that might have attracted a bully.
Look out for related problems in the future.
Even if the bullying stops, all the research shows there can be long-term effects on a child’s psychology or school environment as a result of the experience. Keep an eye on things like if they sleep more or less, if they seem anxious, or if there are changes in school performance. If it seems like your child is getting lower grades than before, or if they are having a hard time making friends at a new school, there may be other problems that you and your child need to discuss. Never blame the child for whatever effects bullying may have had on them. Show your support and make sure they have the resources they need to be secure and successful at school.
Bullying can be a difficult topic to talk about with your child, but it is important to deal with it when it happens. By reporting bullying to the school, building your child’s self-esteem, and being vigilant for any other side effects of bullying, you can hopefully make sure that your child feels supported and cared for. As a parent, you want your child to be safe and happy. While bullying is hard and hurtful, it can also be an opportunity for your child to learn about themselves and how to handle difficult situations. Only by communicating and being honest with your child can you make sure that they cope with bullying, and thrive afterwards.