Every child has to deal with bullying at some time or another. Unfortunately, some of us have children whose refusal to retaliate, small stature, or any given other trait bullies decide to focus on makes them extra-prone to bullying. So what can you do to help your child cope with bullying?
First of all, be willing to demand action from your child’s school. This needn’t be a hugely confrontational deal; you can turn up and explain the situation, then kindly request action. But if your child’s school does not act on this request, it’s time to get more forceful. It’s not wrong to be firm and stern with them if they are not achieving the results your child requires.
For that matter, if your child is the victim of constant attacks on his or her person, it may be time to phone the police and report physical assault. Do not assume that, because it is ‘just’ a case of schoolyard bullying, things can’t get serious fast. You are your child’s advocate, so make sure you act like it and do what you can to ensure your child’s safety and ability to feel safe.
If your child’s school turns out to be unable to bring the bully into line – which can sometimes happen despite the best intentions – it is time to request a conference with his or her bully’s parents. It’s time to address this problem with people who can handle the bully’s activities on a basic level.
Again, it’s important not to be too combative; you can go in being polite but reserved, and get better results than you would if you instantly act very aggressive. However, be firm; your child needs to feel that they can be at school (and/or walk to and from school at the beginning and end of the day) in physical safety. It is unacceptable for that to be in question at any point. While, of course, you could return to taking your child into school and bringing him or her back home, many bullies see this as a sign of weakness and there is a risk that the in-school bullying will worsen.
This does not mean it is automatically the wrong decision; it’s merely a factor you will need to consider. Of course, you shouldn’t have to do so and your child may enjoy the sense of independence he or she gets from walking to and from school alone or with friends.
Finally, aside from addressing the physical act of bullying, be ready to work on your child’s emotional state.
Bullying can be immensely demoralising and there is a good reason why children who are bullied often feel depressed. Make sure your child knows you are ready to listen openly and without judgement, and buy books on bullying that allow your child to view the experience from a position outside of the situation. Better yet; encourage your child to write a story of his or her own about a child being bullied, and explore ways in which that child might cope with the situation.
This gives your child a sense of control and may allow him or her to feel less powerless when placed in a real-life bullying situation. When you finish the story you can even pay to have it self-published so your child can have a real copy of his or her story!
Bullying is an awful fact of life for many kids. By being proactive you can try to put a stop to it, or at the very least minimise its effects on your child’s emotional well-being. Good luck!