How do we equip our children with the skills to deal with bullies and the people who try to make their lives difficult? Victims of bullying might feel hurt, alone, scared, depressed, or desperate for help. Often, children end up in counseling because they have been bullied and they may react with aggression. As adults, we can intervene sooner.
What Can You Do to Help Your Child?
Ask your child if he or she is being bullied, and take it seriously when he or she talks to you. It can be difficult for children to be open and honest with adults about being bullied. They may fear that by talking, they will invite more problems into their lives. Avoid minimizing their problems. The “toughen up” approach does not always help, because when a child is being picked on, it is often by another group of children. As adults, we often have a hard enough time confronting a group of people. Imagine what it must be like for a child.
Encourage your child to be more social. Helping your youngster to make a group of friends and to learn social skills can reduce their likelihood of being picked on. Bullies may be daunted by a group of kids who will not allow a bully to hurt any member of the group. Teach your child to help stick up for friends, and those friends will likely stick up for your child. Dealing with bullies can be difficult, and when children see someone else being picked on, it can be hard to step up and say something to a teacher, adult, or directly to the bully. Reinforce and commend your child for getting involved.
Be an advocate. Teachers, schools, coaches, and other parents are often overwhelmed by the number of concerns they must deal with every day. They may not be aware that your child is being bullied. When your child tells you they are being picked on, get details and specifics—who, what, when, and how. Then, inform the teachers, principal, coach, or other responsible adults, and pass along as much information as you can so they can address the problem. You can also ask your child’s teacher to teach all students to stand up for each other, creating safety in numbers. In this way, no single child is left to stand up to the bully alone.
Know your child’s friends and who your child is involved with. A new aspect of bullying is cyber-bullying. This has taken on a much larger role as kids become savvy with the Internet and social networks. Monitor your child’s Facebook and other social network accounts; what is posted online becomes permanent. If you notice bullying online, record as many of the details as possible so you can inform the school, the bully’s parents, or the police. Teach your children not to post too much information online, and show them how to stay safe when they use the Internet.
Warning Signs of Bullying
Remember that bullying can happen anywhere; not just at school, but also on sports teams, at work, at friends’ houses, or at day care. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are several behavioral warning signs to look for, including:
- Acts withdrawn
- Unexplained injuries
- Clothing is torn
- Fears going to school
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood changes
- Stops talking about school
- Finds excuses to miss school
- Has new friends
- Displays aggressive behavior at home or at school (Sometimes if your child is being bullied, he or she will take it out on a sibling.)
Bullying can make childhood and adolescence hard. Adults can be advocates for children who appear to be victims of bullying and can help or teach them new ways to cope.
© Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Gallup. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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