As adults, we tend to downplay or underestimate the amount and seriousness of bullying that occurs in our children’s schools. Bullying is a serious, widespread problem that needs to be addressed to safeguard our children and provide safer, more secure learning environments. Bullying can result in serious long-term effects such as low self-esteem, substance abuse, eating disorders and even suicide. Studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of children and adolescents have been the victims of bullying. As a parent, it is important to know the warning signs associated with bullying and to learn how to communicate with your child in a compassionate and supportive way.
Take action against bullying
- Start early: Teach kids to respect others at a young age, before they start school and continue to talk about this topic on an ongoing basis. Even small acts of teasing should be stopped immediately. Don’t fail to correct this kind of behavior due to a child’s young age. This is exactly when to stop it.
- Teach assertiveness and live by example: Encourage your children to express their feelings clearly and teach them to say no when they feel uncomfortable or pressured. You should be leading by example so your kids will stand up for themselves without causing a fight or a dangerous confrontation.
- Stop bullying when you see it: Adults who remain silent when bullying occurs are encouraging it and making it worse. Even if you witness bullying from other children it is important to immediately speak with that child’s parents. Remember that if you ignore it, your child will assume it is okay.
- Listen and support children who speak up: Telling an adult about bullying is not easy for children. Many children are afraid to tell an adult because they are embarrassed or they are afraid the adult will ignore them or make the situation worse. If a child comes to you seeking assistance with bullying, spend time listening to them and provide affirmation and support before taking actions.
- Recognize signs of depression and substance abuse: Youth who experience persistent bullying can develop signs of depression like sadness, isolation, poor concentration and sleeping problems. They may also turn to substance abuse to numb their feelings and emotions. Many children do not recognize or speak up about their emotional needs. Make sure to reach out and get them help when you see these signs.
- Tell your children to take action when they see bullying behavior. Tell them to speak out against the bully and inform a teacher if the behavior doesn’t stop. Bullying continues only when we allow it to. Many bullies are rarely confronted and as a result, they will continue with this behavior until someone addresses it.
- Communicate with other adults: Talk to teachers, coachers and other parents about you are experiencing and encourage them to take action as well. A group of adults who are standing up against bullying is better than standing alone.
- Get informed about school policies and state and local laws: Each state has it’s own laws and policies regarding bullying and every school has adopted strict guidelines and consequences for bullying. Bullying can threaten a child’s physical and emotional safety and therefore it is important to take action if the bullying does not stop.
- Seek out a mental health professional: If you feel your child is negatively impacted from being bullied to the extent they are exhibiting unhealthy behaviors and emotions, then it may be necessary to seek therapy in order to prevent worsening decline.