High school can be one of the most trying times for young adults. It is an age full of insecurities and cliques, with people just trying to fit in, and trying to figure out who they are. It is also, unfortunately, an age when people can be extraordinarily mean. I get sick to my stomach when I hear about bullying and beatings and harassments that have been going on in schools. Some of the stories are absolutely horrifying. Obviously, bullying is nothing new, but the severity of the attacks seems to be on a whole other level. As a parent of young kids, I am worried about what is in store for them when they get to that age.
As a parent, I can’t control how another child treats my child, but I can have an impact on how my child responds to an attack or how they react when they see someone else being bullied. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a bully and there are plenty of people that want to do that, they just don’t know how. So talk about this with your own kids and give them the tools to do the right thing.
Here are some ideas to help prevent bullying and what to do if your child needs help:
What Kids Can Do to Stop Bullying
Teach your child not to be a bystander to bullying. If your child sees bullying, teach them to Stop, Reach Out and Get Help:
- Stop the bullying by saying “Leave him alone!”, “It’s not funny.”
- Reach Out and befriend the person being targeted and encourage others to do the same. Tell them how bad you feel about what happened and befriend them by including them in future activities.
- Get Help from a trusted adult. Go with the child to report the bullying incident. Remember, telling is not tattling, its reporting.
What Parents Can Do to Stop Bullying
If your child is being bullied at school it is critical that they know it is not their fault this is happening to them and they are not alone. It is also important to involve your school as soon as possible. Give your child Tools, Resource People and a Plan of Action so they can move forward with less fear and anxiety.
- Tools. Teaching your child to stay calm and assertive in these times is critical. Engaging in role play with your child can help them know how to respond to a bully.
- Resource People. Talk to your child’s teacher, school principal or social worker.
- Create a Plan of Action. Become a positive advocate for your child by learning the school’s bullying policies and working with your child’s teacher and administration to ensure your child’s safety.
When parents talk openly about violence being unacceptable and teach alternatives, children in turn build intolerance to violence, have better self control and develop more negative perceptions of engaging in, or witnessing violence.
- Lead by Example. Many times, our actions speak louder than our words. The best way to teach non-violent problem solving and conflict resolution skills is to role model self control and healthy stress management (e.g. being assertive (not aggressive), talking things through after you’ve calmed down and ultimately walking away from a fight).
- Develop Clear and Consistent Rules. Teach your kids that being violent (physically, verbally and emotionally) is never ok. Rules such as it is unacceptable to hit or lash out, put down, or exclude others on purpose. Gossiping and spreading rumors (this includes texting, twitter, facebook and other media) can be just as damaging. This will help provide guidance as your children develop their values and behaviors.
- Help your Child Learn how to be a Good Friend. Teach your child how to get along with other kids and how to disagree or solve problems non-violently. Kindness, empathy, fair play, and taking turns are all critical skills for good friendships. Share stories of how you appropriately stuck up for a friend or a friend stuck up for you when you were a child.