Helpful Tips for Parents and Professionals

Bullying: What Parents and Schools Can Do to Help

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My Child Won’t Tell Me What’s Going  On

Even if your child won’t talk with YOU about being bullied, the important thing is that he feels he has a safe place to go to talk about it.   Know the 11 warning signs your child may be a victim of bullying.

Whether it’s an aunt, uncle, grandparent, teacher, coach, family friend, or social worker, make sure your child feels safe talking to someone.

If your child does tell you about the bullying, don’t assume that your child has done something to cause it. It may not make sense to you, but at this point it doesn’t matter why it’s happening, it just matters that it is indeed happening.

Listen without passing judgment on your child or the “bully” and don’t try to solve the problem. Ask questions to encourage your child to talk more. “Tell me what happened.” or, “What do you think about that?” Your child needs to know that his feelings are important and that they are being heard.

Help Your Child Solve Problems:  Don’t Solve Them for Her

Don’t fight your child’s battle for him. Let your child come up with some ideas that he thinks might work. Ask questions, such as “What do you think would work?” Or, “What do you think you could say if he (the bully) says that to you?” Then, help your child think through possible outcomes. By doing this, you are giving your child a lifelong gift of problem-solving mastery. Your child will learn to advocate for herself! An important question to ask your child is: “What would make YOU feel better about what happened?”

The National Mental Health Information Center recommends that when you talk with your child:

  1. Make sure to let your child know that that being bullied is not his fault.
  2. Let your child know that he does not have to face being bullied alone.
  3. Discuss ways of responding to bullies.
  4. Teach your child to be assertive (I tell kids this is sticking up for yourself in a good way that doesn’t hurt anyone, including yourself, and doesn’t get you in trouble).
  5. Tell your child not to react, but to ignore the bully, walk away and get help if pursued.
  6. Tell your child to report bullying immediately to a trusted adult.
  7. Contact the school, teacher, school social worker, or therapist.

The School Staff Can Help

Contact your child’s teacher as soon as you confirm that your child is being bullied. A face to face meeting is the most effective and will be taken the most seriously. Bullies don’t want to get caught, so they will usually choose covert times and places to bully.  Most likely, the teacher is not aware of the issue. When addressing the teacher, tell her that your child has come home talking about what had happened and let her know how it is affecting your child. The goal of this meeting with the teacher is to raise awareness and have the teacher be on the lookout for this type of behavior. Later, you can check in with the teacher with a quick phone or email follow-up. Also, many schools have a school social worker who is specially trained in conflict resolution and can assist your child and you in resolving the issue. The school social worker may already be familiar with the child or children involved and can step in right away.

If the bullying doesn’t stop, or if it is increasing in severity, address the principal. Let the principal know that you talked with your child’s teacher about the issue xxx weeks ago and note that your child is still coming home with a complaint of bullying. Ask the principal, “What should I do?” Then, ask the principal what can be done next and when you will hear about the outcome.

Keep Things Private

It’s important to ask the school staff to keep your conversation private. One school I have worked with told me that they address bullies or any wrongdoings by telling a child, “You’ve been observed doing XYZ.” This takes out the possibility that the bully will identify who “told on them.”

If the bullying progresses past verbal abuse and there is a threat of physical violence, it is considered a crime. “Criminal threatening” is cause to alert police. Illinois, along with many other states have bullying laws to provide protection.

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