Bullying is a focal point of media attention these days. Taylor Swift wrote the anti-bullying anthem “Mean” to rebuke her high school tormentors, and celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Demi Lovato, and Lady Gaga have all lent their voices and personal experiences to the cause. It has all served to bring public awareness to what parents have always known: kids can be cruel.
Schools are attempting to deal with the problem by imposing a zero tolerance on bullying among students, and criminal sentences have even been imposed on especially malicious offenders. But school and legal authorities cannot be everywhere, so we as parents should take it upon ourselves to help our kids cope with and respond to bullying behaviors.
Below are some tips to get you started.
Tip No. 1: Coach Your Child on How to React
Bullies generally target people they know they can get a reaction from. They also look for victims who won’t stand up for themselves, so it’s important to teach your child how to respond when a bully zeroes in on them. Try role-playing different scenarios so that they learn how to avoid reacting when they are mocked or teased. They may not be able to stop the bullying immediately, but by rehearsing their responses they can become less likely to be targeted.
Tip No. 2: Help Your Child Recognize Their Strengths
Most children have a school subject, extracurricular activity, or hobby that they enjoy and are good at. Take your child’s core strength and find opportunities for them to excel at it. For example, if they love to swim, sign them up for a club or encourage them to join the school swim team. They can make friends with similar interests and develop a better sense of self-esteem that can fortify them against any attempts by bullies to make them feel bad about themselves.
Tip No. 3: Seek Assistance at the School
Let your child’s teachers and principal know about the bullying. Let them know who the bullies are as well as where and when the incidents tend to occur. It is their responsibility to make it stop, and bringing the harassment to their attention allows them to limit opportunities for it to keep happening. Younger children in particular can be reassured by the knowledge that there are adults at school who they can talk to when bullies are trying to make them miserable.
Tip No. 4: Make Sure Your Child Knows You’re in Their Corner
If your child is being bullied, make it clear that you are taking their side no matter what. Let them know that you love them, that there is no excuse for what they are going through, and that you intend to both support them and get them help with the problem. Children tend to internalize negative experiences, so they need to understand that you don’t blame them for what happened.
Helping your child cope with bullying can be traumatizing, especially if you were bullied yourself as a child. Listening to them recount their experiences could also dredge up extremely painful memories. Stay calm, and even seek help for yourself if you feel that you need it. You want to concentrate on showing your child that while they may not be able to stop people from saying hurtful things, they can control how they respond to it and do other things to make them less of a target.
It is not unusual for children of divorce to be bullied, given the fact that they can be in a fragile state for a long time afterwards. At Alexandra Geczi | Family Law, we understand, and can give you the support and advice you need to transition your child through this difficult time.