Some of us remember the pain of being bullied at school. Bullying can range from name-calling and teasing to physical violence. Most children find themselves the victim of name-calling or teasing at some point, and this can be quite devastating.
Other kids may actually find themselves being shoved, hit or worse. Being bullied can stick with a person into adulthood, and cause feelings of anger, shame and helplessness. Most schools take bullying very seriously and will discipline bullies up to and including expelling them from school.
But what can you do to help your child? What if the school isn’t doing enough?
• First, if your child tells you that she is being bullied, believe her. Don’t overreact, but do take her complaints seriously. Tell her that she should let you know if the bullying continues.
Explain to her that (unfortunately), she is not alone – that bullying happens to lots of kids – this isn’t to make it seem less important, but to let her know that it has happened to others.
• Try to find out who the bullies are and details of what happened and when, and how your child responded. This way you can determine how severe the problem is. If the problem is considered severe or unlikely to resolve itself, you might consider teaching your child to be more assertive in handling the bully.
You can talk to a counselor to get some assertiveness techniques. You can also take steps to help her build self-esteem. Often learning a new hobby, making new or more friends or taking up positive outlets such as martial arts or team sports can help.
• Tell your child to stay in groups of other kids. In the human world as in the animal world, there is safety in numbers. She should try to avoid the bully. Also advise her to keep calm in the face of the bully. This isn’t easy, but it takes away the bully’s power. A bully wants to see that they can upset someone. Explain that the bully has a problem and may need help.
• Explain to your child that if the bully doesn’t stop, you may have to report him/her in order to protect your child and other children and to get help for the bully.
• Do not encourage your child to fight back. This could lead to serious injury.
• If the school is not aware of the problem – make them aware. If they are aware, but seem to not be taking steps to help, talk with the Superintendent or the School Board if you must. The school has a vested interest in protecting its students.
Signs that your child is being bullied are: suddenly becoming moody or withdrawn, developing “mystery” illnesses or reasons to stay home from school, depression, losing interest in school work or activities, unexplained bruises or clothes that are dirty or torn, difficulty going to sleep, waiting to use the bathroom until they get home, asking for extra lunch money, or wanting to carry a form of protection.
While these signs don’t definitely mean your child is being bullied, they are strong warning signs of a possible problem. Don’t hesitate to search for the truth and to enlist the help of your child’s teacher, the school, counselor and even the law.