Bullying is becoming an increasing concern, especially in schools. It happens at all ages, but the National Center for Education Statistics reports that there is more bullying in middle school (grades 6-8) and emotional bullying (pushing, shoving, tripping, spitting) is the most prevalent type of bullying for this demographic.
If your child is being bullied, you need to take action to stop it immediately. There are ways to help your child cope with the teasing and to help lessen the impact. Even if your child isn’t being bullied, make sure you discuss it with them. Talk about the consequences that come with bullying other kids or what to do if they do experience bullying in the future.
Here are the four steps to take to start the conversation about bullying with your children.
1. Identify bullying.
Bullying is intentionally tormenting someone. This can happen in several ways, ranging from physical abuse (hitting, kicking, biting, etc.) to verbal abuse (teasing, name-calling, insults, threats, spreading rumors, etc.). Abuse can cause physical as well as psychological damage, including anxiety problems, fear of social situations, and depression.
2. Know the signs.
Unless your child tells you he is being bullied, or there are visible bruises, it might be difficult to know what’s going on. Some signs of bullying include:
Be aware of any changes in your child’s social habits. If you notice your usually social child is suddenly withdrawing or keeping to himself, check up with them to see if everything is going okay.
Abuse can cause anxiety, as well as a disruption in sleeping or eating habits.
Kids go through mood changes, but abuse can cause emotions to be extremely sensitive and mood swings to come on suddenly.
Your child may avoid certain situations, like taking the bus or hanging out with groups at school.
3. Talk about the problem.
Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s important to talk about the situation. Your child might be reluctant to open up, but look for opportunities to talk about bullying. Try bringing up the subject in a roundabout way to make it easier for your child to talk. For example, if you see a situation on TV where the child is being bullied or hurt in some way, you can start asking your child questions, like, “What do you think of that situation?” This may start a conversation about the bullying they’re experiencing in real life.
4. Get help.
Once your child opens up about bullying, be sure to listen. It’s important for you to stay calm and to offer comfort. In the beginning, your child is likely scared, so stay calm. Kids are embarrassed and ashamed when they are bullied and often worry about upsetting or disappointing their parents. Make sure your child understands that you love him and are not blaming him for the problem. When your child comes to you about bullying:
- Assure. Assure your child that this situation is not his fault.
- Praise. Make sure your child knows he made the right choice by talking about the situation.
- Remind. Help your child understand that many people have been bullied at some point. Remind your child that you will work together to find a solution. This is also a good time to remind them never to do this to anyone because now they know how it feels.
- Talk to school authorities. Make sure someone at the school is aware of the situation. Teachers, counselors, or others in authority positions can monitor it at school and take the steps necessary to help stop the bullying.
It’s important for you to take bullying seriously and help your child cope and move forward. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for bullying, but working together with your child will help you figure out the best course of action.