November celebrates anti-bullying week and it’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss this issue with your child. Define carefully the kinds of behaviors that constitute bullying and why they aren’t acceptable. Whether your child is the perpetrator or the victim of a bullying incident, help to broaden their awareness and understanding so that it can be prevented. Don’t forget to include cyber bullying in your discussion.
Bullying is any behavior which undermines the confidence of another or causes them to feel hurt. Bullying can be physical or verbal and cyber-bullying is a growing concern for parents as their children spend more time online. The anonymity of the internet often encourages bad behavior and parents must work to protect their children from this kind of abuse.
The victims of bullying are often reticent to report issues due to a fear of retribution or because they don’t want parents to take action which may embarrass them. Check in regularly with your child and their teacher to keep abreast of progress at school.
If your child shows a marked change in behavior, a drop in confidence or dramatic weight loss or gain, ensure that you investigate the cause. Teachers often have insights into school dynamics and changes in behavior that can be invaluable to parents. Get to know your child’s teachers and keep those lines of communication open.
Create a safe environment so your child feels comfortable disclosing information. Ask your child’s school about their anti-bullying policy. There should be a clear outline of what constitutes bullying and what students should do if they witness someone being bullied. Ensure that the school has councilors and teachers who are trained to deal with bullying in school and online.
Dealing with bullying
Teach your children how to stay safe online and what information and pictures they can share and with whom. You should not only protect them from online bullying, but also teach them to be kind and respectful when interacting with others on the internet. You need to manage their online image because what they post can have far-reaching consequences.
Ask them about times that they have been a victim of bullying or when they have witnessed someone else being bullied. Outline ways in which they can deal with bullies themselves like using humor to diffuse difficult situations, assertively saying ‘no’ or just walking away.
If they aren’t able to deal with bullies themselves, let them know their options which should include talking to their teacher, talking to you and reporting online abuse.
Talk about courses of action to take should they witness bullying—the victims of bullying often don’t report incidents and students need to work together to eradicate these behaviors.
The best defense against bullying is a confident student who is well informed. When they know what effect their actions have on others and what to do if they are the victims of bullying or see someone else being bullied, we can work to eradicate these behaviors and create a safe, supportive environment in our schools.