Let’s face it: The very first minute you look at your newborn bleary-eyed, you vow to protect your little one, no matter what. You make up your mind that if anybody dares to bully your child, he/she will have to mess with you first. Then comes the day when you finally prepare your toddler for school with adults and children you don’t know. Like most parents, you too hope and pray so that they can take care of your cutie pie. But, one day, your little one comes home with a teary face and says – “Someone hurt me.” Just like it happened with one of my colleagues. Bully! Like many of you, I was too unaware of it until it happened with my colleague’s son. Her three-year-old boy was often bullied on the school bus. He was slapped by a group of 5-year-olds almost every day. Due to shame and embarrassment, he could not share with my colleague. However, she was smart enough to figure this out when her child started having nightmares that made him wake up in fear and cry through the night. When you discover your child is being bullied, you may feel various emotions, from anger to fear to sadness. These reactions and emotional responses are natural for parents who want their children to feel valued, protected, and loved. So, the question is, can you bully-proof your child? Unfortunately, NO! School cultures are still struggling to implement practical approaches, and the situation is getting worse in many communities. As a result, kids feel they don’t have a safe refuge, due to which more teens and middle schoolers are self-harming themselves in response to bullying. Recent research shows that long-term consequences of bullying include a higher risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and self-destructive behavior. That’s the harsh truth.
But dear parents, we have good news for you. By helping your child develop the skills to stand up to bullying behavior, you can now acknowledge your emotions and focus on developing an action plan to help your little one overcome this mental and physical trauma. Wondering how? Keep reading to know in what ways you can deal with bullies.
Ways to help your child facing bullying.
- Listen to Your child carefully.
Being a good listener is one of the best ways to deal with your child’s bullies. You can always start by questioning him/her as:
“What can I do to help you?”
While your child shares what’s going on at school, be open to listening to what he has to say, no matter how painful it is for you to listen. Try to be supportive when he’s talking. If you react too vigorously, there are chances for him to stop talking as he’s afraid he’s going to upset you. While you lend him your ears, please make sure you don’t blame your little one for whatever happens; otherwise, your toddler may stop sharing everything with you out of fear and anxiety. If your child is being bullied, trying to find a reason for why he’s “bringing it on himself” really isn’t helpful. Your goal is to help him continue to communicate what’s going on.
- Help your child on how to react.
Bullies tend to pick on kids who they can get a reaction from. They choose those who get upset, take teasing to heart, and don’t stand up for themselves. So, the second most important way to deal with bullies is to coach your kids on avoiding bullies at school and who to go to if he feels unsafe. Role plays at home is a great strategy to help your child practice not reacting to what the bullies say. What if you can’t stop the bullying right away? You can surely help your kids get themselves away from it and find someone to talk about it.
- Find Something Your Child Is Good at Doing
Please help your little ones feel good about themselves by finding something they can do well. Choose some activities he’s good at and reinforce them verbally. For example, if your kid loves to swim, please get him involved in swimming. Besides gaining self-confidence, doing what he loves will be very helpful for his self–esteem. If your child experiences any bully, you should keep trying to find a positive experience to help him feel good about himself. Remember, every time he will succeed, it is going to help him develop better self–esteem, which is the opposite of how the bullies would make him feel. Bullying is not something your child is going to get over immediately. It can be a long process.
My colleague’s son learned that even if he can’t stop people from saying bad things, he can at least have control over how he should respond. And all credit goes to my lovely colleague. It was all because of them; her son overcame the whole situation and found those small pieces of control that he started exerting on them, bit by bit. Overcoming a bullying episode needs genuine support, and it takes everyone working together as a family to make it happen.
- Encourage Your Child to Be an Upstander
Being an upstander is one of the best ways to help your child find ways to deal with bullies. It helps your little one look for positive action when she finds a friend or another student being harassed. Ask your child to share how it feels to have someone stand up for her and let her know how one person can make a difference. Also, tell them when it’s the kids who speak up, it becomes ten times more powerful than what an adult does.
- Don’t hesitate to intervene.
Your responsibility as a parent is to protect your little one. This means that you must call her class teacher or principal in addition to teaching your kiddo to stick up for herself. Giving your child the message that she’s not alone to handle this will work best in such a situation. So what if your toddler isn’t physically bullied? There are loads of ways to harm her deeply. For example, mean words and isolation can terribly damage a child’s psyche. So assuming any such thing is an absolute no, no!
- Talk with the school.
Yes, it’s evident that children who are being bullied are often fearful and worry that any action will worsen the problem. But whatever it is, you do not need to ask your child’s permission to talk to the school. A co-operative approach by both home and school is essential. Let the school take responsibility for helping students who are getting bullied every day.
As soon as the parents come across their children, showing the signs of cyberbullying or bullying in school, they try to find several ways to deal with bullies and resolve the matter as soon as possible. But the problem is, there are no quick fixes or formulas for relational issues. Speed can sometimes lead to increased pain. So, it’s always best to slow down, observe the early signs of bullying, and listen. This is undoubtedly going to contribute to their healing. Helping your child overcome bullying is tough; we understand! But remember, your duty is to help them move on in life. Your patience can help them process what happened, learn from it, and regain the sense of dignity they felt they lost. You must help your child find closure and make peace with their past traumas at a comfortable pace. How? By replacing their past negative experiences with positive new ones.
Help them rediscover their passions and strengths and encourage them to make more friends. Build support structures to have allies in their corners.
No matter what, dear parents, please don’t let a negative experience invalidate their sense of self-worth. Tell them that what happened in the past was never their fault, but yes, now they have got the power to rise above it.