The signs for identifying that your child is being bullied are vast and often nuanced. Children often feel ashamed about being a target at school, so you may have to read between the lines to find out what is going on.
Perhaps your child is more quiet than usual. Tummy aches are becoming more frequent, and so are other excuses to miss school. They don’t like riding the bus. Whatever the case, you realize something is wrong, and as his or her parent, you can’t sit back and watch it go on anymore.
Before you head to school to sort things out, it’s worth exploring strategies on how to stop or prevent bullying. The following tips may help you address bullying in a smart and effective way:
- Keep your friends close. Making allies at your child’s school is key in helping your bullied child. School personnel often more quickly minimize bullying than admit that it occurs in their classrooms. If you are a good advocate for your child, you may address any issues head-on. Before you speak to your child’s teacher(s), think about how they may receive your feedback. Instead of telling a teacher what is happening in his or her classroom, ask. Tell the teacher about your suspicions, but don’t make it seem like you’re telling the teacher what to do. Compel the teacher to want to help you by being his or her ally.
- Keep your “enemies” closer. Is there a kid in your child’s classroom who seems to be the leader or bullying instigator? Find out whom your child dislikes the most in class—and why—and talk to that child’s parents. See if you can connect with them on a personal level. You may learn that the children have more in common than they think. By connecting with the kid’s parents, you’re leading by example.
- Play detective. Investigate what is driving the bullies. Is your child shy? Is it about your child’s appearance? Quirky interests? Children can be very cruel. And because of their developmentally appropriate black-and-white thinking, they often fall into an us-vs.-them mentality. Anybody who is different may be seen as a threat. Find out what can help your child connect with others without compromising your child’s uniqueness.
- Recognize your child’s strengths. When children have stronger self-image, they are bothered less by what bullies say about them. What are your child’s strengths? Allow your child to see that he or she is unique, special in his or her own way. Nobody else in class may be able to identify 50 types of dinosaurs. Maybe others don’t wear glasses because they aren’t as good readers. Whatever your child’s disadvantage, there is usually an advantage to balance it.
- Help your child shine. Find ways in which your child can exhibit his or her strengths at school. Encourage joining an after-school club he or she is likely to excel in. Or maybe your child has a cool dad. A friend told me that they were able to put an end to bullying after the dad went to school to do a presentation on martial arts. Dad did some impressive kicks, and his child was cool by association. They didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out!
- Find out how your child really feels. Allow your child to vent with you. Don’t immediately offer suggestions. Label his or her feelings, and say them back to him/her. Children who are able to identify feelings are typically better at managing their emotions. Ask questions, and let your child talk even when you know the answer, or what your response will be. This way, your child will learn to process thoughts on his or her own, which will help him/her feel empowered.
- Allow your child to grow from the experience. Being a victim of bullying may cause serious stress in children. With your help, it can be an experience with a positive lesson. Your child can learn how to turn a bad situation into an opportunity. The child can discover that his or her worth doesn’t depend on what others say. And you can show your child that you will always be there to support him or her.
- Consider seeking the support of a counselor. Particularly if the bullying (and its effects) are more severe, seeking the help of an experienced child counselor or therapist can help address emotional concerns and point you and your child toward appropriate remedies.
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