With school back in session, bullying has again become a hot-button issue. It seems like every few weeks there’s another news story about a child ending their life as a result of being bullied, a phenomenon termed “bullycide.”
Parents send their children to school every day with the expectation that they will be in a safe learning environment. It’s upsetting to think that your child who is away from you for six hours a day is being harrassed and bullied by their peers. Parents often complain that the school takes little to no action against accusations of bullying despite all of the anti-bullying campaigns designed to better handle incidents of bullying.
We’ve already shared actions that parents can lawfully and safely take against schools to support and protect their children. But how can they emotionally support their children so they don’t become another bullycide statistic? Below you will find three steps to assist you and your child.
1. Be present and know the signs.
According to the 2012 Indicators of School and Crime Safety, only 40% of bullying cases were reported to adults.
With less than half of kids speaking up, it’s up to adults to pay close attention.
You can be present by having conversations about the school day. Ask specific questions regarding their day. “What was the best part of your day? How was gym class? Who did you eat with during lunch? Was lunchtime fun? Who did you play with today? Were the kids nice to each other? Were the kids nice to you?”
These questions give you insight into your child’s day and help you discuss how children should be treating each other. You can also be present by paying attention to your child’s habits. How is their appetite? Are they sleeping well at night? Do they seem anxious or depressed? Do they suddenly become ill when it’s time to go to school? StopBullying.gov has many more suggestions.
2. Listen, validate, and affirm.
We all want someone who is ready to give us their full attention and be supportive when we have something to say. Be ready to listen when your child tells you about their experience.
Finding the courage to say difficult things is hard for children and can take time. But nothing is worse than finally finding the courage to speak up and not being believed. It is never someone’s fault for being bullied. There is nothing that they could be doing better to prevent the act of bullying. Do not blame your child.
Lastly, affirm who they are and how they deserve to be treated. Being bullied takes your power away. It can make you feel hopeless and worthless. It is important that your children feel uplifted and important at home. Empower their decision-making, speak to them with respect, and apologize when you make a mistake. Allow them to see their value expressed in your actions.
3. Reach out.
Children need support systems, too. Having people who care about you and are invested in your well-being reinforces your value and gives you a safe place to land on hard days.
Foster budding friendships that your child has—having the support of your peers is critical, especially during developmental years.
Reach out to a therapist. Having the perspective of a professional can help you and your child create tools to process difficult feelings and experiences. Encourage your child to talk to other adults whom you trust. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to an adult other than your parent. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
As a parent, you have the power to support your child. Being in their corner through such a hard time has the potential to reduce the effects of bullying.
The more present you are, the more you listen and reach out to resources on their behalf, the more supported and equipped your child will feel.
For more information on how you can support your child or involve your community, visit StopBullying.gov.