When we think of bullies, we tend to think of bigger kids picking on littler kids and older kids taking milk money from younger kids, but the truth is bullying can begin at any age. It is important for families to talk with their children about how to identify bullying and how to deal with it.
Most children have experienced fun, innocent teasing from siblings or friends. It’s important that children understand the difference between kids just being kids and when the line has been crossed. Bullying is when a person is intentionally and continually tormenting another person or people. These actions can range from spreading rumors about another person to being physical or making threats. Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of technology, children are not only experiencing bullying during school, they’re even experiencing it when they get home as well through social media.
Some children do not feel comfortable telling anyone that they have been bullied. Families should show their child that they support them and can talk to them when they feel they are in trouble or need help. but it is important for families to show children it is okay to come and talk to them by:
- Keeping the lines of communication open. Be sure to check in with your children and ask them about their day. Ask them about their friends, how different parts of their day went, and if anything good or bad happened that day.
- Teaching children about bullying. Make sure your children understand what bullying is and what they should do if they feel they are being bullied. Reiterate to them that bullying is not acceptable and that they should ask for help. Keep an open dialogue with your children about bullying, even if they are not the ones being bullied but know someone who is.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, ask questions like “Has someone hurt you?” Even at a young age, most children can tell you something that happened that made them feel bad or hurt. Let your child explain what happened, allowing them talk until they are finished, and no matter how upset you are, keep your emotions under control so that you can reassure your child that they have done nothing wrong and that you will help him or her to fix this.
Once you feel confident that you know what is going on, you’ll want to help your child learn how to respond to it if it happens again. You can play out different scenarios to help your child find the best way to deal with the situation. Some solutions include finding a trusted adult, ignoring the bully, sticking with friends, or walking away.
As the parent, you will need to take action. Talk to your child’s teachers and/or caregivers who are in contact with your child and the bully. There is a very good chance that they may not be aware of the situation because your child has been afraid to say anything. Many times talking to those in charge will help stop the harassment, but if it doesn’t, keep working with those in charge until it does.
It’s difficult to fight our protective impulses when our child tells us he or she is being bullied. Continue to talk to your child to understand what is happening and how they are dealing with it and provide feedback from your discussions with their teachers and/or caregivers if you feel it is appropriate. It’s important for your child to know that you are on their side and working to help them resolve this very unfortunate childhood issue.