How to Talk to Your Kids About Bullying
Jun 26, 2012
If you have a child in elementary, middle or high school, then you've likely heard plenty of stories about bullying. Even if your child is not the target of bullying, he or she could still be affected by it. As a parent, you'll certainly want to make your kids aware of this persistent and growing problem in schools across the country.
You don't necessarily have to wait until your child is a victim to talk about bullying. In fact, parents are often encouraged to start talking about bullying as early as possible.
Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child starting at an early age. Make it easy for them to talk to you about anything; if they are victims of bullying when they are older, they will know they can come to you to discuss it.
Role playing can be a useful tool when talking about bullying. Help your child to form responses to potential situations. Make them aware about how it feels to be bullied. Help them develop good communication skills and ways in which to deal with conflict. It's important, too, to build their self-confidence and self-esteem, which can be helpful if they are ever confronted by bullies.
Know the Signs
While it might be ideal to talk about bullying with your child before it ever happens, it's likely that the talk will be prompted by an incident or incidents that are affecting your child right now.
If this is the case, it's important to be aware of signs your child will display if he or she is a victim.
Does your child suddenly not want to go to school? Has his or her grades slipped? Do they seem anxious and upset? Perhaps they are having difficulty concentrating and are irritable or withdrawn.
These are common signs of bullying and should prompt immediate intervention by the parent. Now is a crucial time to sit down with your child and talk about bullying if you haven't done so already. But how? Is it more difficult to talk about bullying now that it's happening to them? Not necessarily.
Work Through the Feelings
Your initial reaction to bullying might be anger. However, it's best to remain calm and show support for your child. Encourage them to speak out. Remember, they might be feeling embarrassed, afraid, ashamed or self-conscious. Yelling or getting angry might only cause them to shut down rather than open up.
Let them talk first. Find out as much as you can about the situation. Ask questions. And through it all, show your support. Make them realize that you are behind them and that you will work together to resolve this problem. Reinforce how much they are loved and valued.
If you were ever the victim of bullying or witnessed bullying when you were in school, tell your child about it. They might feel better knowing that you experienced a similar situation. If you have no personal stories, try comparing what your child is going through to an incident in a movie or on a TV show to possibly help them open up about it more.
If for whatever reasons they won't talk to you about bullying, encourage your child to go to a teacher, school administrator, counselor or another adult family member. In many cases, it takes adult intervention to stop bullying.
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