At one time or another just about every kid will find themselves in a situation where they are the butt of a joke or being ridiculed publicly. These experiences are just part of growing up and learning how to interact in society. But children who are bullied face persistent ridicule, embarrassment, frustration, and physical injury everyday at the hands of their tormentors.
Which is why we’re taking a different approach today in order to cover helping your child deal with a bully.
Sometimes, children will immediately talk about their bad experiences, so they can be stopped. But many others will simply stay quiet for fear of embarrassment or threat of reprisal. But there are ways you can recognize if your child is a victim of bullying and there are things you can do to help.
Recognizing the Signs of Bullying
If your child isn’t talking about bullying and shows no physical signs of abuse (like regular bruises, cuts, scrapes, etc.), it can be hard to know if your child is a bullying victim. If they show a sudden change in the way they act or suddenly stops doing activities they used to enjoy, these may be signs. For example, if your child purposely avoids certain areas of the school or the bus stop, tends to go to the nurse’s office at the same times every day or week to avoid high-risk situations, or tends to get nervous or anxious when talking about school, these could be signs of bullying.
What You Can Do
If you suspect bullying, ask your child about it. If they avoid the question or don’t want to talk about it, you could try bringing up the subject in roundabout ways, like discussing a recent news item where a child was bullied or watching a movie or TV show that depicts some bullying. Ask your child what he/she thinks about the situation, what they would do in that situation, and if something similar has ever happened to them. They may be more willing to open up.
Once you know bullying is occurring, here are a few things you should do:
1. Show comfort and support
First of all, your child needs to know that you support them. Show them empathy and comfort. Listen to their concerns and stories. Give them the space and freedom they need to open up to you. And don’t ridicule or belittle their concerns by telling them it’s nothing to worry about or that they shouldn’t be afraid.
2. Validate their concerns
Take them seriously. Don’t brush off their concerns or make them sound like no big deal. To your child, bullying is a big deal, so make sure they know you take them seriously. If they tell you they’re afraid it will get worse if the bully finds out they told, be sensitive to that concern.
3. Show them they are not alone
Tell them about a time you were bullied, or have an older sibling or friend share a bullying experience with them. When they know they’re not the only one being hurt, and that people they know and love have overcome bullying, they won’t feel as alone or helpless.
4. Contact the school before contacting other parents
Always contact the school and let them know what is going on before confronting the parents of a bully. That way the school will be aware of the problem and can act as a mediator between all parties involved. Many child bullies may be victims themselves, or feel powerless and weak in other areas of their lives, so they search for power and control by bullying others. Be sensitive to this issue when talking to the parents of a bully, recognizing that everyone may be a victim in one way or another.
5. Be Mindful of Their Self Esteem
Lastly, if your child is the victim of bullying, they may have lost some self-confidence or self-esteem. Give them a chance to build their confidence again by involving them in other activities that will help them develop self-worth, like sports, clubs, hobbies, and more. When your child is confident in who they are and the power they have, they’ll be more likely to avoid bullies and inform parents and teachers when bullying occurs.
Photo by Thomas Ricker.