How to Talk About Bullying
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:
Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bully is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
Help Children Understand Bullying
It is important for children to understand what bullying is so that they can identify it and stand up to bullying and how to get help.
Children should be taught to speak out about bullying and not to allow the bullies to intimidate them. They should know that they can talk to a trusted adult such as a parent, family member, teacher or church leader.
Teach children how to walk away from bullies and how to speak to them by being firm and confident so tha the bully can see that they are not afraid. Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other children and most of all urge your child to help children who are being bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
How Does Bullying Make People Feel?
One of the most painful aspects of bullying is that it is relentless. Most children can take one episode of teasing or name calling or being shunned but when it goes on and on, bullying can put a person in a state of constant fear.
Boys and girls who are bullied may find their schoolwork and health suffering. They may complain about stomach pains and headaches and they are unable to concentrate in class. Studies show that people who are abused by their peers are at risk for mental health problems, such as low self-esteem, stress, depression, or anxiety. They may also think about suicide.
Bullies are at risk for problems, too. Bullying is violence, and it often leads to more violent behavior as the bully grows up. Some teen bullies end up being rejected by their peers and lose friendships as they grow older. Bullies may also fail in school and not have the career or relationship success that other people enjoy.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Research tells us that children look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking to a child can reassure him or her that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem.
Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:
What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
What is it like to ride the school bus?
What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?
Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage children to answer them honestly.
Assure children that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these:
What does “bullying” mean to you?
There are simple ways that parents and caregivers can keep up-to-date with the lives of their children. A good way to do so is to keep informed about what is happening at your child's school. Keep in contact with the school and constantly check with teachers, attend school functions and speak with other parents.
Talk to your child about bully and let them tell you about what they see and how it makes them feel. You can also tell them about what it was like when you were going to school and how bullying made you feel and what you did about it. Let them know that it is alright to feel scared, but not alright to hide their feelings and do nothing.
The more you talk openly to your child, the better equipped he/she might be to deal with bullying.