When your child is bullied Every day on the school bus, three older girls were picking on Sarah. It soon escalated to the girls taking her things, telling other kids not to let Sarah sit with them and telling her she was worthless and a “loser.”
t began with complaints of a stomachache, followed by headaches and sore throats and other excuses about not feeling well. It wasn’t long before it became obvious to Amy that her 10-year-old daughter, Sarah, didn’t want to go to school. This behavior was such a departure from the norm for the happy, energetic child who’d always been so enthusiastic about school. After several days of questioning, Sarah finally confided in her mother that she was being bullied. Every day on the school bus, three older girls were picking on Sarah. She said it began with taunting about her weight, her glasses and her brother, who uses a wheelchair. It soon escalated to the girls taking her things, telling other kids not to let Sarah sit with them and telling her she was worthless and a “loser.” Amy was heartbroken. No wonder her child didn’t want to get on the school bus. Amy held her daughter tightly as they sat on the edge of the bed and wept. For the first time, Amy understood the impact bullying can have on a child.
This year, 13 million children in America will be bullied. Research shows that children who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders, and the lasting effects can be heartbreaking. Bullying is a serious community issue that impacts education, physical and emotional health and the safety and well-being of students. It can be challenging to identify what is and isn’t bullying, but here’s a simple way to define it for your children: If the behavior hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, and they have a hard time defending themselves, it’s bullying. After consoling her daughter, Amy’s emotions quickly turned to anger. She was furious at the girls who were making her daughter’s life miserable. She was mad that the school bus driver had done nothing to stop the behavior. Amy was especially upset when Sarah told her she’d confided in her teacher and that she was still being bullied. What would you do if Sarah were your child? How would you respond once she told you what was happening? Here are the most important steps you can take if your child is the target of bullying:
⊲⊲Listen to your child It isn’t easy for a child to talk about a bullying situation, especially when they’re the target, but you need to listen to your child’s story and believe it. Your first response might be an emotional one, but to be an effective advocate for your child, you need to react in a way that encourages him or her to trust you.
⊲⊲Be patient and supportive It can take time for kids to open up about the situation. They might feel insecure, withdrawn, frightened or ashamed, and they might fear retaliation. Try to avoid making negative comments about the students who are doing the bullying. Make sure your child knows the bullying situation isn’t his fault, and that no child deserves to be bullied.
October 2015 • mnparent.com