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I Think My Child is Being Bullied – What Should I Do?

Signs that Your Child Is Being Bullied

You might assume that your child would tell you if she were being bullied; however, your child may be afraid to tell you for fear that it will only make it worse, she may believe you will not be able to help stop the bullying, or she may not even recognize that she is being bullied.

Your gut instinct is right; bullying must be taken seriously. There can be serious consequences for everyone involved, the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.

Committee for Children reports that:

  • Children who are bullied are more likely to develop future academic problems and psychological difficulties; and
  • Children who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and depression, anxiety, and insecurity that may continue into adulthood.

Signs that Your Child Is Being Bullied

You might assume that your child would tell you if she were being bullied; however, your child may be afraid to tell you for fear that it will only make it worse, she may believe you will not be able to help stop the bullying, or she may not even recognize that she is being bullied. Signs of physical bullying such as bruises or cuts may be more obvious; however, there are other signs that KidsHealth and the Committee for Children report you can watch for that may indicate your child is being bullied such as:

  • Asking often to stay home from school (frequent unexplained minor illnesses such as headaches, stomachaches, etc.);
  • Damaged/missing clothes or belongings;
  • Frequently ‘lost’ lunch or lunch money;
  • Sleeping problems;
  • Bedwetting;
  • Problems in school such as declining school performance;
  • Depression, lack of enthusiasm for friends or activities; and
  • Unexpected changes in routine.

If your child is a victim of bullying, getting him to talk about it can be difficult. The child may be afraid that if they tell you the bullying will get worse, or they may feel ashamed that this has happened to them. KidsHealth suggests that drawings or puppets might help younger children talk about bullies; however, it might be more effective to ask older children direct questions such as:

  • What’s it like walk to the bus stop or home from school?
  • What’s it like on the bus ride to and from school?
  • What happens on the playground during recess or before or after school?
  • What happens in hallways at school or during lunchtime?
  • Have any kids in the neighborhood or at school threatened anyone you know?
  • Do some kids you know get emails, instant messages, or test messages that are upsetting, threatening or insulting?

Committee for Children has the following tips to help you to address the bullying situation:

  • Encourage your child to report bullying incidents to you.
  • Validate your child's feelings by letting her know that it is normal to feel hurt, sad, scared, angry, etc.
  • Let your child know that he has made the right choice by reporting the incident(s) to you and assure your child that he is not to blame.
  • Help your child be specific in describing bullying incidents: who, what, where, when. (Look for patterns or evidence of repeated bullying behaviors.)
  • Ask your child how he or she has tried to stop the bullying. Coach your child in possible alternatives. Avoidance is often the best strategy. Play in a different place, play a different game, or stay near a supervising adult when bullying is likely to occur.
  • Look for ways to find new friends. Support your child by encouraging her to extend invitations for friends to play at your home or to attend activities. Involve your child in social activities outside of school.
  • Treat the school as your ally. Share your child's concerns and specific information about bullying incidents with school personnel, such as your child’s teacher or the principal. Work with school staff to protect your child from possible retaliation. Establish a plan with the school and your child for dealing with future bullying incidents. If you feel the teacher has not heard your concerns you should speak with the principal, if you feel the principal has not heard your concerns you should speak with the superintendent and so on until you feel you have been heard and you have seen the results you are looking for. Work with your child’s school to identify someone he can feel safe reporting bullying incidents to such as the adult in charge of a specific activity or area (such as the playground, lunchroom, field trips, bus lines, gym, classroom)
  • Use school personnel and other parents as resources in finding positive ways to encourage respectful behaviors at school.
  • Volunteer time to help supervise on field trips, on the playground, or in the lunchroom.
  • Become an advocate for school wide bullying prevention programs and policies.

What you as a parent should do

  • Encourage your child to continue to talk with you about all bullying incidents.
  • Do not ignore your child's report;
  • Do not advise your child to physically fight back. (Bullying lasts longer and becomes more severe when children fight back. Physical injuries often result.);
  • Do not confront the child who bullies; and
  • Do not confront the family of the child who bullies.

For more information about Committee for Children, bullying, and their Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum for schools (preschool to grade 9), visit http://www.cfchildren.org/cfc/resourcef/aboutbullying

 


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