Bullying is a repeated exposure to aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Bullying may involve hitting, punching, having things taken or damaged, intimidation, social exclusion or isolation, and insults or rumors spread via cell phone or internet.
According to research, 30 percent of children report involvement in bullying.
Serious long-term consequences of bullying are well documented. Victims of bullying report significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety, and lower levels of self-confidence and social competence. Students who are bullied are more likely to be absent from school, complain of illness, and think about suicide.
As a parent, it is difficult to determine how to take action if your child reports being bullied at school. The uncertainty of whether to intervene or not may be due to fear of seeming overprotective or making the situation worse.
Talking with children about their experiences with bullying is extremely important. Many instances of bullying go unreported for fear of retaliation or embarrassment.
Encourage your child to talk about his or her bullying experiences:
· Document what your child tells you. Ask your child to describe who was involved; and when and where the bullying happened.
· Provide empathy and understanding. Don’t blame your child for the bullying, and don’t assume they provoked the bullying.
· Teach your child safety strategies such as seeking help from a teacher or trusted adult, or walking away from the situation.
· Engage in problem-solving with your child; talk about potential solutions to the problem and next steps that you and your child can take to address the bullying.
· Encourage healthy relationships with friendly students from your child’s school.
· Encourage participation in activities that could foster new relationships and help build resiliency and self-esteem.
· Keep your emotions under control. Make sure you are thinking through the next steps carefully so that your child’s school receives all the necessary information.
· DO NOT encourage physical retaliation.
· DO NOT tell your child to ignore the bullying.
Many children often need help to stop bullying, and parents shouldn’t hesitate to call their child’s school if they have concerns about bullying.
All suspicions of bullying should be reported immediately to school personnel.
To address bullying concerns with the school, parents should:
· Document details of the incident(s) and names of children involved.
· Meet with your child’s teacher to explain your concerns and ask what the teacher intends to do to address the situation.
· Speak with your child’s guidance counselor or school psychologist if there are concerns about how your child is coping with the stress of being bullied.
· Speak with your child’s principal if there is no improvement after reporting bullying to his or her teacher.
· DO NOT contact the perpetrator’s parents. Research has shown this to be ineffective and could create more problems for you and your child. It is best to contact the school directly and let them contact the child’s parents.
Jackie Kawa, Ph.D., PLP, PLMHP, a post-doctoral fellow and outpatient therapist for children at the Boys Town Behavioral Health Center, wrote this guest blog for momaha.
She completed her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This information was adapted from:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Health Resources and Services Administration (2014). Stop Bullying Now! http://www.stopbullying.gov/
Violence Prevention Works! Safer Schools, Safer Communities http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying.page