Helping Your Child Cope With Bullies
There are few things as disturbing as finding out your child is a victim of bullying. While hitting, shoving and threatening are obvious forms of bullying so is name calling, teasing, shunning or spreading rumors or comments on social media. Kids who experience bullying can become depressed, develop low self-esteem, avoid school, feel physically ill, and even contemplate suicide.
And other than seeing signs of physical harm like cuts or bruises, it may be hard to know about bullying unless your child tells you or you ask. That's why it's a good idea to bring up the subject, even if you don't suspect anything. Also, let your children know how important it is to tell an adult if they have been bullied or if they have witnessed any other children being bullied. Here are some tips on how to help your child cope.
• Encourage your child to share. Sometimes children are reluctant to talk about it because they are embarrassed or it makes them feel weak. You may begin by asking your child if there are kids at school who have been bullied. If your child tells you he or she has been bullied, make sure he or she knows they’re not to blame and should not be ashamed. Let your child know you are on her or his side.
• Learn the facts. Get all the information you can about the bullying, including who is involved, how often it happens, and where it takes place.
• Don’t respond with aggression. The worst thing you can do, experts say, is tell your child to go back and beat up the bully. Responding to a bully with aggression simply perpetuates the cycle of violence and fighting. It doesn't solve the problem because the bully gets the satisfaction of seeing the victim upset and one or both children is likely to get hurt. Telling your child to carry a concealed weapon makes it more likely that your own child will be seriously injured.
• Act it out. Use role-playing to show your kids what they can say and how they can say it when responding to a bully. Recovering your child's self-esteem is important. Teach that it's OK for them (or you, depending on their age) to calmly confront the bully or to alert authority figures about the bullying.
• Let the proper authorities know. Don’t confront the bully's parents on your own. Leave that to school or other officials. Learn about your state’s bullying laws. If you have tried all the standard ways to prevent bullying and still fear for your child's safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.
• Have a safety plan. Talk about locations, groups of kids, and activities that should be avoided. Make sure your child uses the buddy system when at risk. Discuss where to go and whom to ask for help in case of an incident.
Top Warning Signs of Bullying
- Physical injuries
- Inability to sleep well
- Loss of appetite
- Wanting to avoid normal routines, such as taking the school bus, inventing reasons to avoid going to school, changing routines or routes to school
- Sudden disappearance of belongings.