As a parent, you want to protect your child from anything that can hurt them physically or emotionally. Bullying is an unfortunate fact of life for some children, and it can derail their emotions, education, and their future. Talking to your children before they experience bullying can be helpful in letting them know what to do if they’re a victim of bullying.
Bullying can be a physical act, like punching or tripping someone. It can be verbal abuse or name-calling, such as calling someone a ‘geek.’ Spreading rumors or false negative information is something bullies might also do.
Good communication is vital between parents and children, and that communication will be helpful if your children are bullied. Take time to talk with your child about bullying. Role-play bullying scenarios to give them a chance to practice responding, ‘Stop that,’ or ‘Leave me alone.’ Encourage your child to find supportive friends to walk with to school.
Because of the prevalence of bullying, many schools have an official policy about bullying. If you haven’t been informed about your school’s approach, ask an official what their policy is. You may think sending your child to a private school may help your child be safer. However, according to usnews.com, private schools – which represent a quarter of all U.S. schools– don’t offer a significant decrease in instances of bullying.
Statistics show that 20% of teens have or will develop a mental illness. Children and teens who act differently may become more of a target for bullying. If your child has a mental illness (such as depression or bipolar disorder), you need to communicate this to your child’s teacher. Be sure you let your child know their condition is not their fault, and to walk away from bullying encounters – and to talk with a safe adult afterward.
If your child is bullied, they may feel too ashamed or overwhelmed to tell you about it. If they have unexplained injuries, a bully may have hurt them. Bullied kids may also complain of symptoms like stomach aches or headaches. They may seem afraid or unwilling to go to school.
If your child tells you that they’ve been bullied, listen supportively. Tell them you’re proud of them for sharing their experience with you. Let them know the bullying is not their fault; the bully is at fault. Reassure them you’ll work together to find a solution.
Let your child see you and their other parent united in their favor. If you’re divorced or separated from your child’s other parent, the child needs to see you’re both on their side. Statistics show children of divorced parents live with the custodial parent for almost 75% of the year. Despite this, the noncustodial parent typically spends time with the child, but they can also contribute to supporting your child regarding bullying.
Remind your child to stay near friends in the hallways, or when walking home. The friends they walk with can give moral support – but can also act as a witness to any bullying behavior. Let them know if they can confidently walk away and notify a safe adult, that may be the safest response. You should also tell someone in authority at the child’s school about the incident – especially if your child has an injury.
Bullying is a growing problem. Keep your communication with your child open and supportive. If your child tells you they’ve been bullied, don’t discount its seriousness, and hope it will disappear. Work together to support your child and show them you’re on their side.