My child is being bullied, what should I do?

No matter the form of bullying a child experiences, its repercussions on their mental health, and even their physical health, can be disastrous. (Photo: Freepik)
Learning that your child is being bullied can be one of the hardest things for a parent to hear. However, the fact remains that most parents will have to deal with it in some form or another because more than half of all children are somehow involved in bullying, whether as victims, perpetrators and their followers, bystanders, or the victim’s active or passive defenders. اضافة اعلان

No matter the form of bullying a child experiences, its repercussions on their mental health, and even their physical health, can be disastrous. Continuously emerging studies are showing a strong link between bullying and suicide, and how bullying tends to aggravate depression and therefore increase the risk of suicide for both victims and bullies.

Many parents might feel helpless in situations of bullying because they might not know how to handle the situation in a proactive manner without making things worse for their child. However, the amount of research available and the work that many experts on bullying have done over the past few decades prove that there are many ways to support your child and play an active role in putting an end to bullying.

Be careful with your words

As a parent, you are the first exposure your child will have to the concept of body image. The sad truth is that many parents, especially in our region, tend to comment on their child’s body and features in a way they imagine to be constructive or a form of “tough love”, when in reality it is nothing but damaging and will only give a child a reason to accept others’ comments on their appearance. If a child hears their parents or other family members comment or poke fun at their features or weight, do not be surprised when you find that this has also been happening at school. Your child never said anything about it, because for them it was was a simple matter of “if my family does it, then it must be okay for my classmates to do it as well”.

So, be very mindful of the words and language that you or other members of the family use when talking to your child. The only proper, healthy way to build a child’s confidence is by promoting a healthy body image through creating a healthy relationship with food and making sure that the child is consistently physically active.

Do not wait for the bullying to happen

Prevention is always better than intervention. Talking about bullying and preparing your child on how to handle it ahead of time in case it ever happens is the first step to taking action. Know that by the age of three, your child is ready to start learning tricks that will make them less of an inviting target for a bully.

Begin practicing outwards confidence, and have them practice maintaining eye contact when speaking to their friends. One tip is to tell your child to always pay attention to the eye color of the person they are speaking to, such as their friend, to better ensure that they know how to maintain eye contact when talking to someone that is bothering them. Sometimes how confident you look in front of a bully is more powerful than what you say.

Then you can begin to role play different “what if” scenarios with them, in order to practice appearing confident and empower them to deal with challenges. Practice doing happy, sad, excited, and brave faces, and condition them to always switch on their brave face when facing a bully.
Sometimes how confident you look in front of a bully is more powerful than what you say.
While practicing such scenarios, create a list of responses for different situations. According to Michelle Borba, Ed.D, a parent advisor and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, “the key is that a comeback shouldn’t be a put-down, because that aggravates a bully”.

Know when your child is a victim 

Be on the lookout for any signs that you child may be bullied. Some of these signs include: coming home with dirty or torn clothing, bringing home damaged possessions or books or reporting things lost, having cuts, scratches, or bruises, being afraid to go to school, having few friends, and appearing sad and irritable. Know that in order for any of these signs to be considered signs of bullying, they cannot be one-off instances, but rather happen more than once over a period of time.

Some parents believe that their children will tell them when they are being bullied, but the reality is that most children do not report bullying. This could be for many reasons, such as: feelings of shame, not wanting to worry parents, fear of not being believed, fear that telling will make things worse, that they would be labeled a “snitch” and, most worryingly, having no confidence that circumstances will change, especially due to past poor responses. These are all valid concerns and you should never shame your child for not coming forward about being bullied; they are already scared and being mad at them for not saying anything will only add to their list of reasons to not tell you anything ever again.

When you start to suspect that your child is being bullied, talk with them. Start by asking subtle questions such as “what do you do when you get angry at someone at school?”; “if your peers get mad at you, how do they act?”; “how do you feel when you hear kids putting each other down?” Then begin to ask more direct questions such as “who do you sit with during break/on the bus?” and “what do you do in between classes?” Once you have gathered information that seems to convey the message that someone might be bothering the child, ask direct questions such as “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?” or “is there anyone at school who seems scary to you?”

Talk with your child’s teachers and ask them who they see your child spending time with, how well your child gets along with others in the class, and whether they have ever noticed or suspected that your child might be bullied.

Teach them the right way to react

It is important to teach your child that a bully’s main desire is to have control and power, and that bullies lack self-control and empathy, which is why they are willing to hurt others to get what they want. The first thing a child should do when facing off with a bully is to never allow themself to feel bad. This is a lot easier said than done, but encouraging your child to always say something kind to themselves for every mean thing a bully says to them is a terrific place to start.

Do not reward the bully with tears; your child has to act like their taunts and name-calling do not hurt. Teach your child to disarm the bully with a sense of humor and laugh at his threats.

Many parents will ignore the advice of bullying experts that have dedicating their professional careers to studying and researching the the best ways to confront and deal with a bully. Some parents will simply offer the same age-old, thoughtless advice of “whoever hits you hit them back”, thinking that it will simply end there. It is one thing to defend yourself and physically restrain the bully and push him away, and quite another to become violent and cause serious harm and then be rightfully reprimanded for it by the school.

Work with the school

It is vital that you remain in contact and work closely with your child’s school and report any bullying incidents. Find out about your school’s anti-bullying policy, and become familiar with their prevention and intervention strategies, as well as with their awareness programs. Contact the school’s counselors and work with them closely to monitor your child, listen to their advice on how to best support your child at home, and keep track of how your child is being supported at school. You can also use the school as a medium to contact the bully’s parents and make it clear that your goal is to resolve the matter together.

Lastly, always remind your child that being bullied will never be their fault, that they are never alone and that you are always there to help. Help your child identify and label their feelings, by talking about your own feelings first. Keep your lines of communication open and always react in a calm yet firm manner. Never underestimate any negative or uncomfortable experiences that you child goes through, nor assume that bullying is some rite of passage that is normal for children to experience and that the issue will work itself out. Being picked on or teased should never be accepted, and it is essential to help your child build confidence and learn how to deal with bullying in order to prevent it from escalating to an unfortunate ending.

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