Is your child or teenager being bullied ?
Most kids aren’t going to come home and tell you that they’re being bullied. In fact, many won’t say anything. Learn important signs your teenager is bullied.
Your child might feel ashamed or worried that they are to blame somehow, and they become experts at keeping it all inside. What are the signs you need to know as a parent?
- Reluctance to go to school or to get on the computer.
- Your child’s mood changes after looking at their cell phone or going on Snapchat.
- Your child may not want to get on the school bus; begs you for rides to school every day.
- Is frequently sick, with headaches and sleeping problems and often wants to stay home from school.
- You might notice damaged or missing belongings, or that your child keeps losing money or other valuable items.
- Unexplained injuries or bruises.
- Your child doesn’t seem to be eating his lunch; he comes home unusually hungry, or his lunch comes back home with him.
- They might be moody, anxious, depressed, or withdrawn. I am here to help with counselling.
While exhibiting one or more of these signs might not necessarily mean that your child is being bullied, these are important things to pay attention to if you suspect something is going on.
What can or should you do if your child is being bullied? Whether your child tells you outright that they are being bullied at school or you simply suspect it, you need to listen to what they have to say around this subject, take your child seriously, and empathize calmly. Support them by assuring them that what’s happening is wrong, and let them know you have a legitimate right and a responsibility to put a stop to any kind of harmful behaviour that goes on and that you will get them some help with the problem. Absolutely, you need to contact the school immediately. If the school doesn't handle the situation, the police are the next appropriate plan of action. I can't stress the importance of contacting authorities; it's a matter of life or death in some situations with suicide on the rise in young teens and bullying. Bullying Canada Link
When you find out your child is being bullied, you naturally feel anxious, upset and angry. Your first reaction is not always going to be the most effective way to handle the situation, though, because it’s probably coming from emotion and not from a calm, objective place which is where you want to be when you talk with your child. Here are some good rules of thumb for parents to follow when dealing with this difficult situation:
Don’t over-personalize it: One of the most difficult things to do when your child is being bullied is to stay in your box and avoid over-personalizing what’s happening. After all, when our kids are hurting, we often feel the pain as well. Many of us remember being bullied as children ourselves, and so our child’s situation drags up feelings of pain, shame, and humiliation. But make no mistake, if you’re not listening calmly and objectively to your child, you’re probably not going to be helpful. You don’t want to over-personalize and overreact. Instead, you want to listen well and help them problem solve to find ways to deal with the situation at hand. When you overreact, you’re going to overstep your boundaries. It’s unavoidable.
Don’t swoop in immediately and take over: You might feel angry and anxious and want to rush in and fix everything, but that’s not going to help your child most in the long-run. If you do this, they will feel powerless not only from the bully but also from you, because they see you're worried, falling apart or charging in. It’s really important to calm down so you can listen and make a plan together. Ask, “How can I be most helpful to you?” Don’t forget to strategize with your child. This is where the life lesson will come in because this will enable him/her to learn how to deal with this situation in the future.
Don’t minimize: Keep in mind that you don’t want to under-react either, by minimizing the problem or telling your child they are being “too sensitive.” This is not a time to leave your kid alone. They need someone more powerful than the bullies to advocate for them and help them handle the situation. Don’t blame. If your child is being bullied, don’t blame him/her for what’s happening. Don’t ask, “Well, what are you doing to make the kids pick on you? You must be doing something.” There is often no reason for a child to be picked on, other than that they are in the line of sight of another child who wants to taunt or hurt them. There is no justification for bullying. Blaming your child will only make them shut down or worse, blame themselves for what’s happening. Instead, let your child know that it’s not them, anyone can be a target. It’s often just a case of wrong place, wrong time, and any kind of difference or vulnerability can do it. The best way to help your child not be a target is to help them practice not reacting from fear or anger.
Have open conversations: Talk with your child about your own experiences. Really empathize with them and their situation by being authentic with them. It’s okay to say, “I feel so sad when I hear what you’re going through. I’m here to help you.” Do your best to have the kind of relationship where you keep the lines of communication open. Encourage them to talk to other adults in their lives who they might be close to, as well, sometimes an aunt, friend or teacher can give advice and say things that you might not be able to say because you’re too close to the problem.
You can help your child by having problem-solving conversations around bullying, and coming up with strategies together. Here are a few you might suggest to your child:
Teach your child not to react out of fear: Often, kids feel shocked and paralyzed when someone calls them a cruel name or hurts them. If they stand there and take it, get upset and lose control, or start crying, the other kids will have what they want, a reaction. Let your child know that reacting out of fear or anger is going to set them up for more of the same: either way, it’s just going to fuel the fire. I think the simplest way to change the dynamic is to make the bully feel uncomfortable with their own behavior. As a general rule, kids should try to avoid hitting or fighting back verbally or physically, this often will only cause the bullying to escalate. Tell your child to say something that’s short, simple, and neutral but that doesn’t necessarily egg on the other person more, and then leave the scene.
Ignore the bully: As hard as it is for kids in this situation, tell your child to try to ignore bullying by either pretending they don’t hear or by keeping a straight face and not reacting to the taunts. You can practice with your child at home, too, by role-playing the situations they face at school. Help them practice not showing anger or fear.
Use the buddy system: Tell your child that there is strength in numbers; when your child is with a friend, it makes it harder to be isolated or targeted by bullies.
Talk to an adult: Encourage your child to go to his school guidance counselor, a teacher, or a school administrator when they are being bullied. It is the duty of school officials to hold anyone who is bullying another student accountable. Explain the difference between “tattling” and “telling.” Tattling is done for the purpose of getting somebody else in trouble, and telling is done because something is going on that’s not okay and an adult needs to know. Telling is done to protect oneself and to protect others. Kids need to know that someone more powerful than the bully is on their side and can put a stop to the bullying—and often, that someone is you. Need help with your child contact me for assistance.
How to stop bullying by Barbara Coloroso, helpful video.