As a parent, finding out that your child is being bullied at school can be infuriating. How to deal with child being bullied at school?
Sadly, bullying in schools is a national epidemic. A report by the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that one in every five elementary school students in the US were bullied in 2016. An even more alarming statistic is that only 36% of kids reported this bullying to a parent, teacher or another adult.
While some people argue that ‘kids will be kids,’ bullying can have far reaching consequences on your child’s physical and emotional health. Children who experience bullying are at risk for psychological problems including low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. At its worst, bullying can result in suicide among teens and pre-teens. In this article, we look at tips on how to deal with bullying at school as a parent.
Look for Signs of Bullying
Many children fail to report bullying because they believe it is tattling or that the behavior will escalate when the bully is reprimanded or punished. As a parent/guardian, you have to look out for warning signs. Changes in your child’s behavior such as low appetite, faking illness to avoid school, poor performance at school or increased anxiety can indicate a problem at school. Unexplained injuries, torn clothing, missing personal belongings should also be a cause for concern especially if it is happening regularly.
Talk Openly with Your Child
Develop open lines of communication with your child. This way, they can freely communicate with you about any issue and are likely to report bullying. Staying calm during such a conversation is important to allow the child to open up more. Applaud them for their honesty and reassure them that you will do something about their problem. Feeling supported helps children deal with negative emotional experiences better.
Contact the School
Despite most schools professing serious policies against bullying, few teachers and administrators will take action without a formal complaint from the parent. To keep the dialogue with the school objective, it is a good idea to document it in writing. Emails may come in handy if the situation escalates and legal action is required. Start with your child’s teacher. If no conclusive action is taken to stop the bullying, you should contact the school’s administrator and possibly the bully’s parents. Pursue the issue persistently and calmly until action is taken to protect your child from the bully.
Bully Proof Your Child
Providing your child with skills to deal or to avoid being targeted by bullies is a proactive way to keep them safe in school. Some of the ways your child can stop a bully include:
- Being Assertive: Teach your child to make eye contact with the bully and address them by their name. Tell them to remain calm and confidently stand up for themselves. Bullies usually target kids who are overly emotional as they feed off this fear, anger, and other negative feelings.
- Reporting the Bully: Teach children to report bullying incidents as a self-defense tool. Telling a teacher or adult about the bully is the best way to show that they are not intimidated by their behavior.
- Avoiding confrontation: While fighting back is a noble idea, your child can avoid potential harm from the bully by walking away from confrontations. Ignoring teasing or insulting denies the bully the attention they are often seeking and makes your child an unfulfilling target.
- Having a Buddy System: Bullies rarely target kids who hang out with other kids. Encourage your kid to always be in the company of their friends in the school hallways, at lunch break or on the school bus. If your child is a loner, talk to the teacher about finding them a support system of ‘buddies’ that help keep each other safe from bullying.
Build Your Child’s Resilience
Kids who grow up in a safe, supportive home environment show resilience when dealing with negative experiences. Additionally, confident kids are less likely to be targeted by bullies. If they are targeted, they are better equipped to cope with the situation. Raising your child to have a positive outlook on life can help them get past the trauma that bullying causes. Having enjoyable hobbies and activities to fill up their time also builds your child’s self-esteem.
Children, and especially teenagers may not be comfortable discussing their bullying experiences with you. You should still encourage them to talk to another adult besides yourself, family or teachers. A guidance counselor in school could be of help in this situation. Another alternative could be a counseling or kids helpline. Such services provide a safe avenue for kids to report and cope with bullying without the fear of judgment or victimization.
Practice what you Preach
Children learn by copying adult behavior. Modeling what respectful, positive and assertive behavior looks like helps them adopt these habits. Avoid self-criticism, anger outbursts, a victim mentality, and other such harmful habits. Teach your child strong communication skills to help them speak up against bullying.
Perhaps the best bullying advice for parents is bully proofing your child. Providing a supportive environment and encouraging them to talk to a counseling or kids helpline also help cope with bullying and other issues your child is facing.
Emily Lapm is stay-at-home mom with a petite 2-year-old girl. She is also a freelance writer. Emily is a contributor of lifestyle magazine handle with food, craft, and travel section. She likes to enjoy cooking for her kid at home by creating new ideas.