There’s nothing worse than discovering your tween or teen has been targeted by a bully. As a parent, you may experience an entire range of emotions including anger, fear, pain, confusion and maybe even embarrassment. But regardless of what you are feeling, overcoming bullying requires immediate action on your part.
Bullying is not something that goes away on its own and it’s not something kids can just “work out.” Even if you are not sure if your child is being bullied, your participation in the situation is crucial to a positive outcome.
Here are 10 steps you can take to help your child overcome bullying.
1. Create an environment where your tween or teen feels safe talking to you.
Make sure your teen or tween feels comfortable sharing with you. Avoid having an emotional reaction and don’t shame your child for being bullied. Instead, ask questions in a calm manner gathering as many details as you can. Applaud your tween or teen’s courage in telling you about the incident. This not only encourages future disclosures, but also helps build a stronger relationship
between the two of you.
2. Make a commitment to help resolve the issue.
It’s always a good idea to ask for your child’s opinion before you go straight to teachers or administrators. Sometimes a tween or teen will be afraid of retaliation
and you need to be sensitive to this concern when addressing the issue. If there is a fear of retaliation, you will need to be discreet in talking with school authorities and be sure they will do the same. Make sure they will not put your child at risk by calling both kids into the office at the same time or asking them to sit down with the guidance counselor together.
3. Discuss the bullying incidents in detail with school personnel.
Be sure to bring notes about when and where the bullying took place. The more concrete documentation you can provide, the better. Also ask them to share the school’s bullying policy
and stress that you want to partner with the school to see that the issue is resolved.
4. Emphasize that your goal is to see that your child feels safe at school.
Ask the principal and guidance counselor how this will be accomplished. For example, what other adults, like duty aids, physical education teachers, bus drivers, hallway monitors and cafeteria staff, will be notified to be on alert? Can your child have a new class schedule or a new locker assignment? In other words, what steps can the school take to ensure your child’s safety? It’s very hard for a child to heal, if the school environment feels threatening or hostile. Even if the bullying has stopped, being around the bully may still cause your tween or teen anxiety.
5. Consider outside counseling.
Bullying can affect your child in a number of ways and regaining self-confidence is a process that may require outside intervention. A counselor also can assess your tween or teen for depression
and thoughts of suicide. Even if you suspect your child is fine, never underestimate the power of bullying. Kids have taken drastic measures to escape the pain it causes including committing suicide without ever admitting the hurt they were feeling.
6. Encourage your tween or teen to stick with a friend at school.Having a friend at lunch, in the hallways, while riding the bus and during the walk home is always a good idea. Bullies are more likely to target kids when they are alone. If finding a friend is an issue, consider driving your child to and from school and ask the school if they have a mentor or someone who can be available to your child.
7. Teach your tween or teen skills for overcoming the negative impact of bullying.
One way to do this is to emphasize your child’s strengths, skills, talents and positive attributes. Then, help your child find activities and events that help build on those strengths. Some parents have found that Tae Kwon Do
or a self-defense class helps kids develop self-confidence.
8. Keep the lines of communication open with your child.
Be deliberate in asking about your tween or teen’s day and acknowledge any negative feelings or emotions. Watch for signs that your child is being bullied
again – either by the same person or a new person. For non-bullying incidents, you also may want to brainstorm strategies for dealing with difficult peer situations. If your child is getting outside counseling, the counselor can give you additional strategies on actively listening and communicating with your child as well.
9. Foster opportunities for socializing with friends outside of school.
Encourage your tween or teen to invite friends over, to the movies or other fun activity. By doing so, you are helping your child develop a strong support system. If your child needs help finding friends
look for opportunities within your child’s circle of interests. Keep in mind kids who have friends are less likely to be targeted by bullies. And if they are targeted, having friends helps ease the negative affects.
10. Follow up with the school to ensure that the bullying has been resolved.
If the bullying hasn’t been resolved, or if the school is not taking the situation seriously, you may want to consider removing your child from the situation. Is the bullying serious enough that you can involve law enforcement? Can your tween or teen attend another school? Are there options for online learning programs that are done at home? It’s important that your tween or teen feels like they have options. Feeling like there are no options or that the bullying must be tolerated, leads to feelings of hopeless, depression and even suicide.