Bullying is one of the most painful experiences of childhood. Whether a child is being teased or doing the teasing, the impact of bullying is destructive, and both bullies and targets of bullying may suffer greatly in the future. Kids and teens may have trouble talking to their parents about teasing out of embarrassment or fear of parental reaction. Parents frequently struggle to know what to say or do in reaction to their child’s experiences with being teased or bullied. Parents and children alike need help understanding the different types of teasing and what behaviors frequently lead to bullying.With help, parents learn effective coaching skills to help their child develop the necessary coping skills to effectively handle episodes of teasing.
Know your rights and responsibilities
There are laws about bullying. There are anti-discrimination laws and standards for practice in the US.
All schools should have a discipline and/or an anti-bullying policy. As a parent, don’t be afraid to ask to see a copy of this. If the school doesn’t have one, ask why.
But the bottom line is … if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask. Ask nicely, but be persistent.
Keep written records
Keep a diary of what is going on with your child. If possible, ask them to keep a diary. Having written records will help get action faster, and will also act as proof if the case becomes so serious that it needs to be dealt with by the authorities.
Any incident needs to be taken seriously and acted on promptly.
Use you written records to regularly and persistently inform the teacher and/or principal about what is happening.
Persistence and tangible evidence usually means that the incidents are taken much more seriously.
Know what reporting systems are in place at school
Some schools have anonymous ways the child can report bullying. For example, a “Bully Box”. This is usually in a private, safe place. It entails the child writing what happened and who the bully is and placing this in a secure box anonymously.
Other incidents of bullying need to be reported more openly so protection mechanisms can be put in place for the child. Find out who the child feels safe with at school, and encourage them to report what happened in detail. If they report an incident to you, don’t be tempted to brush it off.
While the bullying is dealt with, create a safe space
Your child might need a place to escape to if they feel threatened, especially during break times. Some suggestions include:
- a quiet, highly supervised area in the library
- supervised activities in the computer room
- the school counselor’s officeThey might need a circle of supporters. This could include:
- a child from a higher year (e.g. a year 6th grader for a year 2nd grader)
- a group of supportive, same age peers
- a sibling or other relative at the school
- a teacher, school counselor (social worker) or other adult mentor at school
- increased parental involvement at school (reading groups and any other volunteer opportunities)