Protecting Your Child From Bullying
Kids all over North Texas have likely already settled into their weekday routines of catching the bus, getting from class to class and participating in extracurricular activities. For some students, however, being around their classmates again is more stressful than it should be because of bullying.
Observed each October, National Bullying Prevention Month aims to educate and raise awareness about bullying prevention. While seen as a rite of passage for both kids and teens in the past, bullying is now recognized as having power to socially, emotionally and physically devastate kids and affects at least one in every four students.
Bullying is described by the Pacer National Bullying Prevention Center in the following terms:
- Behavior that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally.
- An inability for the target to stop the behavior and defend themselves.
- An imbalance of power that occurs when the student doing the bullying has more physical, emotional or social power than the target.
- Repetitive behavior; however, bullying can occur in a single, severe incident.
Bullying can occur in multiple ways, including verbally, emotionally/socially, physically, sexually or via technology or “cyberbullying.” Cyberbullying has become increasingly common with the rise of social media.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep issues, physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches, decreased or poor academic performance and even suicide.
If your child is being bullied or you suspect that bullying is occurring, the National Bullying Prevention Center advises parents to encourage their kids to talk and then be ready to listen without judgement. Let them know that you’re on their side and there to help. Find out as many details about the situation so you can come up with a plan to support and empower them going forward.
As awareness about bullying has increased, the recommendations for how to handle it have also changed. Parents may discover that suggestions they were given for dealing with bullies as children have been proven ineffective at best and can even cause more harm.
Telling a child to stand up to the bully (or fight back) implies that it’s the child’s responsibility to handle the problem alone and can lead other adults to see your child as part of the problem. Advising a bullying target to ignore the bully is unhelpful and likely something they’ve already tried. Additionally, trying to fix the problem by confronting the bully directly or contacting the bully’s parents usually doesn’t help either.
So what can you do? Play to your child’s strengths and work to build their resiliency, confidence and self-esteem by coming up with an action plan that includes adults they trust, such as teachers, coaches and counselors. Encourage your child to stick with his or her friends, as feelings of isolation can make a bullying situation worse.
If bullying is an ongoing problem, help your child keep detailed records (who, what, when, where) and establish relationships with teachers and administrative staff at school so you can work together to address bullying if and when it occurs. Additionally, educate yourself on policies for handling bullies at your child’s school and district, as well as state laws.
At the end of the day, parents are a child’s greatest allies in dealing with bullies. For more resources for parents and to find out how you can raise awareness for bullying prevention, visit Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
What if the bullying is inside the four walls of your home? Learn Six Tips to Prevent Sibling Rivalry to keep the peace in your family.