The old myths that say bullying is a normal part of childhood and it will make kids tougher are finally — and rightfully — being widely rejected.
Bullying is not safe. As we have witnessed on Staten Island, it can lead to such serious consequences as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and actions, and poor academic performance, not to mention physical harm.
Parents often feel helpless, and are concerned about making matters worse, but with a little guidance, you can help protect your child from becoming a victim. Here are some ways to help:
• Try initiating a conversation with your child. Help your youngster understand what bullying is and that it doesn’t just mean being physically beat up. Children may not realize that being ridiculed or made to feel badly can happen in many ways: over the phone, by text, or online.
• Communication is critical. Be open to the topic, listen when they hint at concerns, and check in with them regularly.
• If you sense your child is struggling socially, sometimes it helps to pursue a hobby or interest. This can help boost confidence, as well as provide opportunities for making friends in a different environment.
• Set an example with a positive attitude towards standing up to bullies. Discuss scenarios where it would be safe to stand up to a bully, and situations where it would not.
• Talk about seeking help from a responsible adult, and give examples of whom they might go to for help, and what they might say. Remind them that seeking help is the right thing to do, and be consistent. Show that you reject the concept of “snitch” or “tattle tale,” and praise behavior that would protect your child and others from harm.
• Stay involved with your child’s school as much as you can.
• Remember that not all children are likely to volunteer the information to you, and do not expect that they will.
• If you suspect, ask, listen, and ask again. If your child shares worrisome incidents with you, although you may have your own emotional reaction, focus on your child.
• Show concern and willingness to help. Reassure them that it’s not their fault, and they don’t deserve to be treated that way. Children often blame themselves, and need to be reminded frequently that no one has a right to harass them and that it is not their fault.
Helping a child who is being bullied can be challenging, and it may take time and persistence. Remember that your efforts are worthwhile, that you are modeling healthy ways to resolve problems, and that the risk to your child’s wellbeing is significant and action is necessary.