Discovering that your child is being bullied is a major worry and it’s understandably distressing to find out that there’s a problem. You can feel out of control and desperate to help resolve the situation. Or it may be that you suspect something is going on but your child isn’t willing (or able) to talk about it. What’s more, because the nature of bullying has changed so much over the years it can be hard to spot the signs of bullying or relate the situation to what you think of as bullying from your own childhood.
Signs of bullying. What to look out for include:
– Does he/she show any signs of physical abuse e.g. bruises?
– Are there changes in eating habits? Not just losing weight or eating less, but also eating more than usual.
– Changes in sleeping patterns, e.g. oversleeping or disrupted sleep/insomnia.
– Worrying about school or showing reluctance to go to school.
– Complaining of physical pain e.g. headaches, stomach aches, or tiredness.
– Loss of items or broken possessions.
– Showing a drop in academic performance.
– Behavioral changes, are they becoming more aggressive or more passive at home, engaging in risky behaviors?
– Is your child/teen becoming withdrawn or sad, for example, avoiding social events, talking less or becoming a loner?
If you do find out your child is being bullied
Once you spotted the signs of bullying and got the confirmation of it, just:
Stay calm and listen without showing judgment, or getting angry/upset. It can be hard to accept but remember bullying is part of human interactions, so you don’t want to overreact and amplify the issue.
Don’t hijack your child’s problem, as you will foster dependence.
Let your child take charge of the bullying by asking them how they think you can help them resolve this problem.
Give them the power to make a change for themselves by giving support, not taking over.
Reassure them by explaining that bullying is about the bully having a problem not themselves.
Discuss how some people will say or do nasty things because they want a certain reaction. Make it clear to your child that they have the power not to show the bully that they care or that they are bothered, and most of the time they will just go away.
Go through the steps he/she can take on their own before, mom or dad step in.
Assure them that you are there for them and that you will help them find a solution that they are happy with to stop the bullying.
You are teaching resilience and independence, which results in more confidence and higher self-esteem. Give them examples of famous people who were bullied as children or teens, such as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Kate Winslet, Prince Harry, Jessica Alba, Tom Cruise and Chris Rock.
Tell them it is not their fault, and they have done nothing to deserve it.
It is not about being weak, just as being a bully isn’t about been strong.
Avoid charging into the school to see the teacher/admin staff or the bully’s parents. This is what your child will dread, and it tends to escalate the bullying.
Never dismiss their experience and concerns by telling them to sort it out themselves, or just live with it, ignore it, etc.
They came to you because they need your help so teach them strategies to cope and follow up to determine the outcome.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR CHILD TO YOURSELF WHEN YOU WERE HIS/HER AGE
Fadwa Lehsen Lkorchy is a Licensed Psychologist & Personality Dimensions Trainer at the German Neuroscience Center