Bullying has become a huge problem in schools, and every day we see its terrible consequences all over the news. Children are often reluctant to talk about it. Here are some warning signs to look for:
- Unexplained cuts and bruises
- Missing or destroyed items
- A child being particularly unwilling to go to school
- Frequent headaches or stomach troubles
- Changes in eating habits
- Sudden loss of friends and lack of interest in socializing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Failing grades
- Feeling helpless or losing self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away, self-harm, or talking about suicide
If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to her first. Let her know you are proud of her and you love her regardless of what happened. Give her space to express herself.
Now that you know what happened, you can address it. If there is immediate threat of bodily harm or a weapon or illegal activity is involved, inform the police. Otherwise, work with your child to empower him in this situation. He feels as if he lost all his power when the bullying started; you can help give it back.
First, start with the child: Through role playing and thinking through possible situations, you can give your child guidance on how to react if the bullying happens again. Ask the child what will make her feel safe, what would she like to see happen.
Then go to the school: Contact the adult responsible where the bullying takes place, for example, the bus driver or monitor if it’s on the bus. Make whatever changes need to be made to keep the bullied child safe, but try to make the changes to his routine as minimal as possible. The bullied child is not at fault and any changes made to his routine may be seen as a punishment.
If the adult directly responsible for the child does not respond appropriately, you can go over his or her head to a supervisor. Keep going until you get the answers you and your child deserve. Remember, they do not need to discuss with you the punishment given to the bullying child. In fact, they are not allowed to by law.
Bullying is an unfortunate reality in school, but there are ways that you as a parent can help and protect your child.
For more information and tools, go to: StopBullying.gov