Bullying has become a severe issue that families, schools, and the entire educational system have to deal with successfully. According to some estimates, between 1 and 3 US students have been bullied in school, and most bullying occurs in middle school. Moreover, 28% of students in grades 6-12 experience bullying, while 70.6% of pupils witness bullying in schools across the country. The most common forms of bullying among children are verbal, social, and rates of cyberbullying are on the rise. How can you help your child? Here are a few tips to follow.
Recognize signs of bullying on your child
While schools try to promote anti-bullying campaigns, this problem still persists and requires more action. A vast majority of children either witness or experience bullying but rarely confess to others out of fear. That is why it is crucial for parents, teachers, and other adults to recognize signs of bullying in a child. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Self-destructive behavior, e.g., running away from home, self-harm, talking about suicide.
- Social withdrawal
- Lost/destroyed books, clothes, jewelry, electronics, lunch, money
- Frequent stomachaches, headaches
- Faking illness to avoid going to school
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in school
- Decreased self-esteem
- Change in eating habits
It is not uncommon for bullied children to turn on their younger siblings in a bid to establish a sense of control. Bullying is strongly linked to manic depression; a child usually blames himself for the fact he or she is being bullied, feels insecure and hopeless. As mentioned above, victims of bullying can also talk or think about suicide. So, is there anything you can do? Yes.
Keep the focus on yourself
Children usually like to please one another, but it can get out of hand on some occasions. Let’s take bullies as an example; they expect others to please them, do what they want. Bullied children become unable to say or do anything because they are either scared or don’t know-how.
For parents, it is important to teach their kids to set limits or boundaries when communicating or playing with other children. Moreover, while helping others and making them happy is perfectly okay, a child should always strive to focus on himself/herself. It takes time for a child to learn these things, but with a healthy conversation, it is possible. Also, make sure your child recognizes that you do the same thing you recommend to him/her.
React with kindness
Bullying isn’t the only problem kids face in school. In most cases, kids get mean comments from time to time and deal with them by saying something mean as well. That’s counterproductive and forms a vicious circle that’s impossible to break. It’s always better to react with kindness and teach your kids not to use the same mean expression the other child does. That would make them equal, and it’s something we want to avoid. Kids who say mean things usually want to provoke others; kindness is a great way to overcome that. Teach your child to say “Thank you for sharing” and walk away.
Bullies “work” by making their target distance himself/herself from their friends, siblings, family, and so on. That explains why most kids don’t tell their parents they’re bullied in school. As soon as you notice symptoms of depression co-occurring with other signs mentioned above, you should have an honest conversation with your child and make sure your son or daughter stays connected with their friends and family. This is a great way to reclaim their power and stop feeling helpless.
In some cases, kids don’t say anything to adults because they never do anything about it in the first place. Sometimes adults fail to acknowledge the severity of the situation, while in other instances, they aren’t aware of what’s really going on. Teach your child that it is not a cowardly act to notify teachers in school and parents about bullying. You can also team up with other parents to raise awareness of this serious problem.
One of the biggest mistakes that people and kids make is expecting bullies will, simply “get bored” and move on. The best way for a child to reclaim his/her power is to act quickly, and this is where you step in. Teach your child to be outspoken and proactive instead of putting up with it. Also, it is useful to point out that the other child really isn’t better or more powerful; it’s just the perception they’ve created due to someone’s behavior.
It’s not you
Bullied children usually believe it’s their fault or that they somehow deserve it. That also explains why they choose to put up with bullying, thinking they don’t deserve anything else. Make sure your child knows that someone else’s bad behavior has nothing to do with them; it’s just how other people are. Nothing they’ve done said or thought justifies the fact they are bullied by other children. You should make sure your kids know this, even if they aren’t bullied. It’s not uncommon for children to assume that someone else’s behavior or negative comments are their own fault.
REMEMBER: if you presume your child is a victim of bullying, make sure you consult teachers, other parents. Visiting a therapist specialized in these cases is yet another way to help your child.
Bullying is a common problem in schools, and, unfortunately, rates are on the rise. Always teach your child to be proactive, inform adults, and do your best to raise awareness of this issue.