While we know you wish you could protect your kids from everything, there are some things in life they are going to have to experience. Unfortunately, bullying is one of those things that most kids deal with in today’s world. Bullies and mean kids exist at every age and grade level. And they can make normally mundane tasks, like standing at the bus stop or playing at recess, a nightmare. Not to forget, bullying can leave deep, emotionally traumatizing scars. In worse case scenarios, it can involve in threats, damage, or someone getting hurt! Here are some ways you can help your child cope with school bullying.
A Background on Bullying
Sadly, bullying in today’s world exists in many forms. It can be physical in terms of pushing, punching, or hitting. Bullying can be verbal through the likes of name-calling and threat making. Or it can be psychological/emotional through acts like spreading rumors or exclusion. And combined with today’s interactive platforms, this bullying continues to occur long after the last bell rings. Known as cyberbullying, this form of bullying can be particularly hurtful as bullies are doing their tormenting behind a screen. More often than not, the harmful effects of the bullying are then brought to school the next day.
Identifying School Bullying
Most kids have been teased at some point in their lives. And when done by a sibling or close friend in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, they see it as funny rather than hurtful. As soon as teasing crosses that line and becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, that’s when it’s time it needs to stop.
Bullying is intentional. Bullies know they are pushing specific emotional buttons in order to get the reaction they want. Some bullies are kind in real life but extremely hurtful behind closed doors or behind a screen. Other bullies aren’t afraid to threaten in person. And some don’t even come into contact with their victims, but rather make up rumors and say mean things online to them.
And yes, we understand that there are some things that kids just have to learn to brush off their shoulder and “tough out.” But bullying needs to be taken seriously as it can affect a child’s sense of safety and self-worth. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to suicides and school shootings.
Signs of School Bullying
- Visible bruises or injuries
- Acting differently
- Not eating
- Not sleeping well
- Stop doing the things they enjoy
- Moodier/more easily upset
- Avoid certain situations
Try to Stop It Before It Starts
If you aren’t sure if your child is being bullied, there are a few things you can do to start. The first would be to brainstorm solutions to try and de-escalate a bullying situation and creating a toolkit for them to use in tough situations. Try things like:
- Creating a list of responses
- Roleplay “what if” scenarios
- Promote positive body language
- Keep an open line of communication
- Building their confidence
The Right Way to React
Bullies crave power and control. And they don’t oppose to hurting a few people to get it. Here are some ways your kids could react to keep a bullying situation from escalating:
- Cancel out negativity – if someone says something negative, say something positive, when you remind yourself of your positive attributes, it helps to instill self-worth
- Tell them how you feel – most bullies lack empathy and sympathy, tell them why you feel the way you do.
- Don’t reward them with the reaction they want – a bully wants to hurt your feelings, seeing you react the way they want you to only encourage them to continue.
- Follow your gut – there will be times your child needs to give in to the bully if they fear they’re going to get hurt. If you can laugh it off and walk away, do so. But if they threaten physical violence, tell an adult about it afterward.
If the bullying still continues, it’s time for you to take action. Here are the things you can do to help your child cope with school bullying:
- Report repeated, severe bullying
- Encourage your child to be an upstander (not a passive bystander)
- Talk to the parents
- Partner with the school
- Teach coping skills
Restoring Their Confidence
Dealing with bullying can take a toll on a child’s confidence. Good news is that there are a number of ways to help restore it. Encourage your kids to spend time with those that appreciate them for who they are. Have them participate in clubs, sports, or other enjoyable activities builds a sense of community.
Provide a listening ear about difficult situations. And remember to encourage your kids to also tell you about the good parts of their day. Make sure they know you believe in them and that you’ll do what you can to address any bullying that occurs.
Let CPA Help You!
Helping your kids without turning into a helicopter parent is hard. Let us help you navigate that blur of a line and help you be the best parent you can be. Cristina Panaccione and Associates has two locations in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you learn the skills you need to cope with the punches life throws at you!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Dave Lori – LPC
Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years. His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.