Bullies are bad news. They create an environment of fear and anxiety at school, turning a place your child once loved to one he or she dreads going to. Kids who are typically all smiles as they walk through the door of your home turn into ones who slink to their rooms dejected and show little interest in the things they used to love.
There are many different forms of bullying, including acts of physical harm as well as name-calling, social exclusion and emotional abuse. While every child likely feels that he or she is the only kid in the world dealing with such problems, bullying is a widespread issue. Parents.com even calls it an epidemic – a study in the Journal of School Health found that 19 percent of elementary school students in the U.S. are bullied. Furthermore, a National Education Association survey found that more than 160,000 kids stay home from school each day to avoid bullying.
It can be easy for children to feel hopeless in the face of a bully, but it’s important for parents to know that there are many steps they can take to help their kids deal with aggressive classmates. Read on how you can help your child handle the situation:
Make sure your child knows you’re supportive
Children can feel isolated when dealing with bullies, so it’s important that you tell them you are there to help them and solve the problem. Kids can frequently think that the bullying is their fault because they are not good, smart or “cool” enough, so you should make it clear that none of the situation is their fault. Emphasize that it is the bully who is doing something wrong – not them, recommended Kids Health. You can also remind them that many people are bullied when they are younger – perhaps you even were at one point. Stay calm during these conversations, since many kids fear their parents will be upset if they learn they are being bullied.
“You should make it clear that none of the situation is your child’s fault.”
Teach him behaviors that show confidence
Of course, bullying is never the fault of the victim. But bullies frequently target kids who appear scared, weak or insecure, so teaching your child behaviors that convey confidence can be a useful tool for dealing with bullies. Encourage your child to build friendships with classmates and to walk with a buddy to the locker or the bathroom. Help them learn that it’s okay to speak up for themselves, to talk calmly but firmly, and to go to a teacher or other school official for help.
Develop strategies for responding to bullies
Working with your child to create a “defense plan” can help instill confidence when dealing with a bully. Suggest that he or she reacts to a bully’s teasing or aggression neutrally and show indifference, which can help a bully to move on. Stop Bullying Now also advises teaching your child self-calming techniques, like taking deep breaths or counting to 10.
“Sometimes it is necessary to get the school involved.”
Involve the school if necessary
Sometimes if a child is calm, confident and walks away from a bully, the situation will eventually resolve itself. However, other times it is necessary to get the school involved, especially if the bullying is having a noticeable effect on the child’s eating or sleeping habits. As Stop Bullying Now notes, if bullying was happening outside of school, for example at a dance studio or sports practice, you would talk with the people in charge to help the situation. Speak with a teacher, guidance counselor or other official in person to develop a plan for addressing the bullying. While talking directly to the parent of the bully may be tempting, this type of conversation is best mediated by a school official.
School shouldn’t be a place of fear – it should be a safe place of happiness, friendships and learning. With these tips, you can help your child see school that way once again.