Written by Feba Maryann
Imagining that your child is a victim of bullying can be difficult for any parent. In 2015, it was estimated that 22% of school kids face some form of bullying before they graduate high school. From name-calling and mocking to cyberbullying, bullying can take different forms. In no way or form can bullying be termed as ‘character building’ or a rite of passage.
Without the child coming forward and admitting to being bullied or having some serious injuries, it can be nearly impossible for parents to find out about their child being targeted at school. Read on to know more about how you can help your child deal with bullies.
Noticing The Signs
If you get an inkling that your child is being bullied, take a look at some red flags to keep an eye out for. Stomach aches and headaches are the most common excuses used by victims of bullying to skip school. Sudden illnesses in the morning become more frequent. The child might appear more upset or moodier throughout the day. Bullying can also take a toll on the eating and sleeping habits of an individual. Anxiety, restlessness, and difficulty in concentrating are other subtle signs of being bullied in some.
Children who are bullied at school also become more withdrawn in other social settings and refuse to talk about certain aspects of their life. Coming home hungry is another sign of being picked on at school. If you notice the child being reluctant to partake in an activity they previously or providing elaborate reasons to not attend school, try to talk to them about it. These are evident signs to suspect bullying.
Creating A Safe Space
After noticing that their children are being bullied, parents should create an environment at home that allows for proper communication. Try to let the child know that home is a safe space to talk about their experience and how it affects them. If the parents were victims of childhood bullying, try not to personalize the child’s experience, and encourage the child to open up.
Often, children feel ashamed or embarrassed after sharing their trauma, this is when parents need to step into any role that the child needs them to be then — a shoulder to cry on, someone to hold their hand, or just a comforting presence.
Let the child know that their parents will always be there for them. Do not get visibly upset, angry, or reactive because the child is in a vulnerable position and this will only make them reluctant to share.
By teaching children about the dos and don’ts of a good friendship, parents can help them understand how to establish healthy relationships at school. Coaching children to stand up for themselves and others starts in this manner. Learning to distinguish between a disagreement and persistent victimization can empower kids in all walks of their life.
At the same time, teaching kids that disagreements and conflicts are common in relationships is equally important. Not knowing how to effectively resolve conflicts can be a setback to children in their adult life too.
After learning about your child’s experience with bullies, a critical question that arises is what should be your next course of action. If the incidents have been sparse and not caused severe harm to anyone, contacting the bully’s parents is the best option. Connect with the other parent and communicate with them to find a suitable solution with positive outcomes for all parties involved.
If the child has taken major hits due to the bullying, it is wise to notify the school authorities and work with them to resolve the issue. Finding a therapist for the children — the bully and the victim — to talk to can be beneficial. Most important of all, make sure that your child knows that you acknowledge their experience and will stick with them throughout the trying times.
A child’s time at school plays a major role in laying the foundations of their social adjustment. Finding this experience traumatic will do no good for these individuals. Being subjected to bullying in childhood has long-term effects like poorer health and lower quality of life as adults. This is why incidents of bullying should be helpfully dealt with by parents and teachers. While doing so, ensure that you allow the children to experience their emotions and equip them to healthily cope with them.