Helping your School age Child with Bullying

bullying, school, school age child, children

School or Summer camp has started and you’re noticing your child isn’t happy. You can’t quite pinpoint the cause and you know something just isn’t right. You try asking your child and you get evasive answers. When you talk with some other parents with word bullying comes up. 

Here are some signs that may point to a bullying problem with your child or teen. Unexplainable injuries, your child seems to suddenly fall a lot or bump into things at school or on their way home.  Mornings before school are just dreadful, you’re younger child may whine or complain of stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness. While your older teen has headaches or fakes being ill. Your teen or child could be suddenly missing, losing, or breaking their belongings.

 What is bullying?

Bullying is a pattern of intentional name calling, hitting, tripping or punching, exclusion from a social group or threats of violence or public humiliation. It is intentional and a repeated pattern of behaviour that involves an imbalance of power. No matter what some people believe bullying is not horseplay or friendly teasing by friends. It’s intentional and it’s meant to hurt.

No one should have to tough it out! Bullying is serious and can have long term mental health consequences on your children and teens. Repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm and can erode your child’s self-esteem and mental health.

What are the signs and symptoms?

You might see a change in mood. Your child or teen may be evasive about their friends, their social life or school or work environment.  You might see or hear them express being lonely. They may have unexplainable outburst of  anger or show signs of feeling depressed. You might start seeing your child be aggressive towards other children at home. They may come home with torn or ripped clothes.

Some children stop playing sports and withdraw from their friends preferring to “stay at home”.  As stated earlier your child may suddenly have many sick days complaining of tummy aches or head aches or just telling you they do not want to go to school. There may even be an unexplainable drop in school grades. Your child or teen may say they just can’t concentrate at school anymore.

Reasons kids keep quiet

Understandably kids mistakenly believe bullying will stop if they just keep quiet, try to stay under the radar, or just avoid the bully. Children report they are afraid that parents or teachers will just make things worse. They believe the advice that they receive from their parents or teachers is not helpful. Or they worry grown ups  won’t believe them or their concerns will be dismissed.Kids also believe that they will be blamed for for being bullied. Older children express feeling embarrassed or humiliated that they cannot handle their own problems. They are truly confused and don’t understand why their ” friends” or peers have turned on them. in some cases tweens or teens are embarrassed  by their own actions such as sexting and they don’t want their parents to know.

Start the conversation

It’s important to start the conversation about bullying before your child even has the chance to experience bullying. If you’re not sure how to bring up bullying check out your local library or bookstore about bullying. Use TV shows or bullying in movies to talk about bullying.  Watch the movies on your own first especially before showing younger children. Then decide how you want to talk to your children about bullying. Ask them about their opinions, their experiences, and what they feel they can do about bullying.

Let your children know you are open to these types of conversations.  Make your home open to conversations so if they are ever bullied, harassed or see someone else being bullied or harassed they know they can talk to you,  another trusted adult or even a sibling.

What questions can I ask About Bullying?

If you suspect that your child or any child or teen is being bullied, ask your child direct questions. Give them the space to tell you their story in their own way.  You may need them to tell you the story a few times in oder for you to understand all the details. It’s important to remain calm while your child or teen is telling their story. The focus needs to be on your child and how they are feeling and not about your own emotions.

After your child has explained their story reassure your child it’s not their fault. When we don’t understand how people behave we sometimes say “what did you do to deserve this?” Victim blaming and these types of questions only make your child embarrassed and ashamed to come forward in the future.  Ask questions such as “What happened? How did that make you feel?” to encourage your child to talk more. And try to find out more about the kid who’s doing the bullying. Who is it and what is going on with that child?

Emphasis that it’s the bully who’s misbehaving and you do not hold your child or teen responsible. Reassure your child, he or she is not alone in this problem. And you’ll figure out how to solve this problem together. And keep your word. Involving children and teens helps to empower them and build their self esteem.

My Child won’t Talk

And sometimes no matter how your try, your child or teen will not answer your questions. It’s time for you to start asking his or her friends, teachers or coaches.  It’s not normal for any child to suddenly loose all of their friends.  Do contact your child’s school and express your concerns.  Most schools have teachers, principals, or vice principals who will kept an eye out for a problem and figured out ways to intervene without anyone knowing that school received information from a parent. You may also wish to talk with your child’s coach or after school provider to learn what they are seeing.

How to prevent your child from being bullied?

Before you start offering solutions ask your child for his or her suggestions. Parents can help their child create a few of her own solutions. This can build her or his confidence and self-esteem and help give them the feeling of control and power over the situation and their lives.

You can teach your child how to calmly confront a bully. Practice having your child assert him or herself at home. Rehearse how to speak in a strong, calm and loud voice, stand up tall and look the bully in the eye. Practice telling the bully “NO” and I want your behaviour to stop.  Work at not emotionally responding to put downs or insults  and learning how to speak in a non defensive manner. “Why would you say that to me? You may think I’m XXX and I don’t think that about myself at all”

Go to your child’s school and help your child identify areas at school or on the playground where bullying has occurred. Teach your child to avoid these areas and to stay with friends of other peers.  Rehearse with your child finding a friend, an older child or adult and letting them know you are being bullied. Work at walking away from where you are being bullied towards the yard monitor or other children.

Teach and practice your child how to be confident. Rehearse what they will do and say if they are being bullied. Teach your child to report bullying to adults. Teach your child what to do if they see someone else being bullied.  Empower your child to ask the kids being bullied if they want to come play with them, say things like “let’s go now. Do you want to come with me?”

Reporting Bullying

It’s important to take your child’s complaints seriously. If bullying happens at school inform the school. Report bullying that happens after school and off school property to the police. The police take these concerns seriously and may visit your home to talk with both you and your child or teen. They may offer their own suggestions on how to avoid being bullied.

If you and your family are struggling in helping your child or teen cope with bullying it’s important to know you are NOT ALONE! Many families struggle with how to help their child overcoming school yard bullying. Do reach out for help and speak with one of  our child and youth therapists here at Family-Therapy.