Helping Your Kids with Bullies

Bullying is a serious problem that affects nearly 30% of all students in America. While bullying was once considered a normal part of growing up, it can have a devastating effect on its victims, ranging from school anxiety, depression and poor grades to property damage and serious physical harm. Increased public awareness has helped adults realize the gravity of the situation, but children still have trouble getting help.

How to Help your Child with Bullies
"Bully" by Thomas Ricker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How to Help your Child with Bullies

Kids who are bullied tend to keep quiet about it, making it difficult to get them the assistance they require. In order to help your kids tackle bullying problems, the first step is to recognize that they need help. These are some of the signs to look out for – your child coming home hungry, damaged or missing property, your child taking longer than usual to get home, sudden loss of friends, unexplained physical injuries, a reluctance to go to school, sudden drop in grades, altered sleep or eating habits and moodiness. If you notice any of these signs, chances are your child is having a bully problem. Here’s how you can help your child with bullies.

Encourage your child to talk about the problem: It is important that you understand the full extent of the situation. In order to do so, you must encourage your child to talk to you about it. Listen attentively and make it clear that you take your child seriously. Ask questions to get more information, but ensure your questions aren’t accusatory. Don’t ask what your child did to warrant the bullying, as bullying is never warranted.

React in a calm, understanding manner: If your child has not told you about the bullying and even if she has, she is probably scared about how you will react. Gain her trust by reacting in a calm, understanding manner. Refrain from blowing your top, insisting that she fight back or promising to call up the bully’s parents right away. Do explain that your child has your unconditional support and that you will figure out a solution together.

Talk to the authorities: It is important to let the school authorities know what is going on. Talk to the child’s teacher and if that does not change anything, complain to the school principal. Ask what action will be taken to prevent the problem from happening again. If your child feels apprehensive about it, ask the teacher or principal to keep the complaint anonymous and explain to your child that you have done so. If the bullying is extreme and involves a threat to physically harm your child, complain to the police.

You can also help your child with a few anti-bullying tactics

Portraying confidence: Bullies are cowards and look for weak targets. Help your child ward off bullying by portraying confidence. Teach him simple tricks like making eye contact with the bully and saying ‘stop’ in a strong voice. Practice voice modulation with your child and teach him to sound strong even when he doesn’t feel so brave inside.

Walking away from the situation: Fighting back is not a good idea as it can end up in physical aggression and harm. Walking away from the situation is usually sufficient to defuse it. It is important to walk and not run as running away will give the bully a feeling of power over your child.

Staying with a buddy around bully zones: Bullies rarely attack groups of students and your child is less likely to be targeted when she is with a group of friends. Even if she cannot be in a group at all times, ask her to have at least one friend that can stick with her around the bullying zones.

Joining extra-curricular classes: Enrolling your child in extracurricular classes is a good way to help her gain new skills and make friends outside school. This is helpful in two ways – it helps your child gain self-confidence, something that takes a blow when kids are bullied, and it ensures that she still has a set of friends even if she loses the ones at school. Both of these will make the bullying easier to get through.

Help your child come up with solutions: Give your child a feeling of empowerment by encouraging him to come up with his own solutions to the problem. Help him think through his answers by asking what he thinks will happen if he responds that way. In cases of verbal bullying, you can role play and encourage your child to come up with creative responses to the bully’s taunts.

In cases of cyber bullying: Cyber bullying is a growing concern nowadays and is as pressing an issue as other forms of bullying. Teach your child never to respond or retaliate to any form of cyber bullying and to inform you immediately if and when it happens. Save evidence of the bullying and ask your service provider to block and take action against the perpetrator.

Being bullied is traumatizing for children but with the right help and support from parents, it can be overcome without any lasting impact.

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