Bullying is a tough topic in parent and teacher circles. Conversations about kindness, concerns about bullying, and even judgements about parenting style fly at the playground and school pick-up line. When it comes down to it, parents of bullied kids need to know realistic ways to guide your child through the experience while fostering safety, independence, and support. Here are a few of our favorite tips to get you started.
Take a Deep Breath
The first instinct when finding out (or even suspecting) that your child is being bullied is often one of anger. Before you do anything, take a breath. It might sound like a small and somewhat silly first step to solving your bullying problem, but it does wonders for clearing your head and allowing you to develop a family plan for keeping your child safe and supported.
Get Information without Shutting Down Communication
When your child tells you about a bullying incident, it is important to gather as much information as you can. This information can help you determine how much you need to become involved, and how to best encourage your child. Ask questions to find out additional information, but if your child doesn’t want to talk about it, don’t push. Sometimes kids need extra time to process through situations and emotions; allow your child some time away from the discussion. Revisit your questions with your child later.
Practice Verbal Tactics
Sometimes bullied kids feel helpless because they simply do not know what to say or do when another student is downright mean or disrespectful. Equip your child to be safe and communicate their expectations by practicing tactics with them at home. You child will feel empowered and ready if a bullying situation arises.
Examples of things for your child to practice and have handy are “Stop what you are doing – it makes me upset” or “I don’t like it when you say that to me – stop it.”
When your child is equipped to put his feelings into words, and not be startled or intimidated by the moment, he just may take a bully by surprise. Bullies are not used to having others talk back or tell them to stop, and it may empower your child in a healthy way.
Increase Your Encouragement About Other Aspects of Life
It is important to keep up on your child’s bully situation. However, resist the temptation to make most interactions with your child bully-centered. Instead, offer plenty of encouragement to your child about other aspects of his life – build into his self-esteem. Praise his hard work in math class or his determination to test for an advanced belt in karate. Do not let the bully overtake other excellent things happening in his life, or in your family’s life.
Get Others Involved
Sometimes, your child can stand up to a bully and the situation diminishes. Other times, it is the safest and smartest thing to get school officials involved. Start with an email to your child’s teacher letting her know about the situation. There are so many dynamics in a classroom, your teacher may honestly be unaware of any intimidating situations or relationships. Telling her first can alert her to keep an eye out and step in when necessary. If things are not getting any better, ask your child’s teacher to tell you who to get involved next.
Stay as Positive as Possible
Your family is a team, and a bullying situation can be stressful on everyone. Remember to encourage one another and to spend quality time with one another, reminding everyone to stay the course. Bullying can be scary and stressful for kids and for parents. While these tips are certainly not the cure-all for bullying, they can get you started as you support your child.