Bullying usually starts in the first few weeks of school and, if left unchecked, can quickly escalate.
Parents may be at a loss at how to approach their child if they suspect they are involved in a bullying situation – whether they are the target or the bully. The good news is there are proven methods and bully-proofing strategies parents can learn and practice with their children to help them better deal with difficult situations and feel safer in school.
Remember to always encourage healthy friendships, give your child opportunities to feel confident and competent, and help him/her to discover and develop their talents and skills.
Develop a Personal Safety Plan with Your Child
What do you say to a child who is showing signs of being bullied? It depends largely on their age but always start by listening. Ask what you can do to help. Stay calm and empathize. Share your own past experiences. Keep it in perspective. Take what your child says seriously and do not overreact. Say nothing to escalate their fears.
Assure your child that you take their concerns seriously and will work with them to help them develop a plan so they can feel safe in school and get home safely. The plan should:
- Identify adults in school they can turn to for help
- Determine where the bullying took place and list alternative locations they can go to such as the guidance counselor’s office (some schools may already provide options to recess).
- Identify their friends and encourage them to travel in groups (there is strength in numbers)
- Keep the lines of communication open with the school and your child.
Practice Self-Protective Strategies with Your Child
For many schoolchildren, the lessons learned through CAPS classroom prevention programs become their first line of defense against bullying. Our presenters guide students towards positive, healthy interactions, and frank communication about teasing and bullying. CAPS’ Steer Clear of Bullies program teaches grade 3 and 4 students the acronym “STEER CLEAR”—the steps they can take if approached by a bully:
- Stick up for one another
- Travel in a group
- Explore your choices
- Resist using fists
- Calm down
- Enlist the help of others
- Assert yourself
- Report incidents
What to do if your child is behaving like a bully:
- Stay calm. Do not become angry or defensive
- Talk with your child’s teacher and work with the school to modify your child’s behavior
- Don’t resort to physical punishment
- Reassure your child you still love him/her; it is the bullying behavior you do not like
- Ask your child:
- What happened?
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- How do you think the other person felt?
- What could you do differently next time?
- How will you make amends?
Read through our FAQs from parents for other tips on how to help your child. If your child is angry alot of the time, help her to control her anger. Consider seeking help. Your child’s doctor, school social worker and/or a licensed professional mental health counselor can help you and your child address the bullying behaviors and the underlying issues causing them.
Your daughter’s best friends suddenly cut her off from the group and they did so in a way that was humiliating and cruel and won’t even tell your daughter why. This complicated phenomenon—known as relational aggression—is behavior that is meant to hurt someone by manipulating their relationships with other people. This can be nonverbal, verbal, or physical. It can include building alliances (getting other people to join in on the bullying), teasing, put-downs, spreading rumors and gossip and cyber-bullying.
Whether your child is the target of relational aggression – or acting as the aggressor – living through the experience can be upsetting and challenging for both parents and their daughters. Read through our FAQs from Parents for tips on how to help your daughter.
The greatest risks to your child on the Internet and their cell phone come from people they know and not strangers.
If you discover that your child is being cyber-bullied, stay calm. Listen. Do not overreact. If you immediately “unplug” their connection to their friends and community, you run the risk of them never approaching you again when problems arise. Ask them what they would like to see happen and work together to accomplish this.
Some options for you and your child:
- Block the sender, save the evidence, report to provider.
- If the problem continues, you might try to notify the sender/sender’s parents that “authorities will be contacted if it continues.”
- If the cyberbullying reaches the point of defamation, invasion of privacy, harassment or threats, you may consider contacting an attorney or the police.
One of the best things parents can do for a child in trouble online is to help remove them from the drama and detach temporarily from their peers. The distance can help them gain perspective and give you time to determine the best way to help your child deal with the crisis. Suggest and plan something that will distract them and that they can relax with and enjoy – a movie, family outing, game – you know best what this might be (anything but cell phones and computers).
Read through our FAQs from Parents for other tips on how to help your child stay safe online.