What a Parent Can Do If Your Child is Bullied at School
Editor’s note: This is the second segment of our three-part series on preventing bullying. The first segment, “Understanding Bullying is the First Step Toward Preventing it” is located here. The third segment, “What steps should the school do to prevent bullying and create a safe school environment?”, will appear in the next edition of Newsline.
By Leslie Leslie, Project Director
MassPAC / APPLE
You may get a call from the school. You may notice your child is withdrawn, upset or feeling sick. Your child might tell terrible stories about what is happening at school.
Now you are aware that your child may be being bullied at school. Not all mean or hurtful behavior is actually bullying. Bullying relies on an imbalance of power to hurt someone in a repetitive and deliberate way. If you think your child is the victim of bullying at school, what steps should you take?
Your whole family needs to support your child and be open about what is going on. The child needs to know that you are listening. Ask your child what you can do to help. Don’t place blame.
Encourage your child to keep communicating with you. Try to find out details about what is happening, dates, times, places, actions, and document everything.
It is difficult to hear that your child feels threatened at school, you want to stop what is going on immediately. But your child needs to learn how to deal with the bullying, how to react (or not to react) and how to get help or talk with someone about it. You may want to rescue your child, but they need to build social and emotional skills to deal with it themselves.
It is the school’s responsibility to stop bullying. Obtain a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy to determine if the bully violated a school policy. Learn your rights. Talk with your school principal and ask what you can do together to stop the bullying. Stick to the facts without becoming overly emotional. Monitor what actions the school takes. If the bullying does not stop, file a formal complaint.
Find a champion for your child at school, it could be a classroom teacher or a guidance counselor. Let your child know that you are working with the school to prevent the bullying. Ask your child to seek out this school staff member when they need assistance. Taking steps on their own will give a child some control over the situation and help them feel less powerless.
There are things a child can do to handle the situation at school. Practice scenarios at home where your child learns how to ignore a bully. Talk about safe ways to act in situations that might be dangerous. For older students, you may need to learn how to stop cyberbullying with discretion. Help your child identify one friend in their class or how to build a support network of trusted peers. Your child cannot stop people from saying bad things, but they can take control over how they respond.
Help your child to find something they can do well. It can be an activity outside of school, such as scouting or swimming. Choosing an activity that they are good at will help build self-esteem. A positive experience will help your child feel good about themselves, building resiliency and confidence to counter how the bullies make your child feel.
Families should ask for support. Be sure to talk with your spouse, supportive family or friends. It is important to work through your feelings so you are available to support your child. If nothing else, it may help you feel like you aren’t alone and that there isn’t anything wrong with your child.
Bullying is not something your child is going to get over immediately. It can be a long process. Helping your child build self-esteem, find people to help them, and to take some control over their situation will allow your child to succeed.