No child deserves to be bullied. Years ago, bullying was largely ignored. Kids were told to either “walk away,” “get over it,” or “fight back,” depending on the differing values of their parents. Unfortunately, kids who were bullied often turned out to have later problems—with anger, self esteem, anxiety, depression, and other issues. Thankfully, schools today are trying to combat bullying, often with a “no bullying” policy with serious consequences. This doesn’t mean that bullying is completely gone, but it is a step in the right direction for helping to protect kids from being bullied. Here are five ways that you can help a child who is being bullied at school:
- Always keep the lines of communication open. Encourage the child to talk to you or another trusted adult if they ever feel like they are being bullied.
- Get the facts straight. Before you offer any specific advice, make sure you know who is involved and what seems to be going on. Ask
- Contact the school administrators. Let the teachers and principal know what is happening. Find out what the school policies are and what the consequences are. Do not directly contact the parents of the bully, you can never be sure how they will respond and letting the school mediate this situation is the best way to handle it. Follow up with the school to find out how the situation was handled and how they intend to prevent further incidents.
- Be sure to boost the confidence and self esteem of the child. Remind them that it is not their fault that they are bullied and they are not to be blamed for the inappropriate behavior of the bully! Praise them for seeking help in appropriate ways, and assure them that you are going to help protect them from further bullying as much as possible. Help them become involved in activities that help build friendships, social skills and confidence.
- Give the child an effective and appropriate way to respond. Never encourage the child to retaliate or seek vindication from the bully in any way. Teach them that violence is not the appropriate response, and that responding to bad behavior with bad behavior will not solve the problem. Strategies such as strong verbal responses (“Stop bothering me now”) and seeking help from teachers, parents and school officials is the right avenue to pursue.
No child should be left to handle bullying alone. It is a complicated social problem, and the bullied child is usually already experiencing decreased self esteem and anxiety about the bullying. Provide plenty of support and work toward finding a solution and remediating the problem! Stepping in right away and intervening early can help prevent the situation from escalating, and it can also help protect other potential victims of the bully. Just be sure to follow the appropriate school protocols when you get involved, so you don’t end up making the problem any worse than it already is.