A parent’s intuition is often right, after all you know your child best. If you notice a sudden change in behaviour or simply feel there’s something not ‘quite right’, then it could be a sign that there is a problem. And that problem could be bullying.
One telling sign in younger children is physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach-aches. At their age, children may not have the words to express themselves fully and instead physically show their emotions.
If it’s not bullying, it could be something else. It’s important to initiate a conversation with your child if you’ve picked up on some worrying signs. We’ve put together 8 steps to help tackle the problem.
How to Learn What’s Happening
Although the thought of another child bullying your child may make your see red, it’s important to remain calm. Don’t interrogate your child. Instead, tell them, in an easy and relaxed manner, that you’ve noticed a change. Ask if anything is up. Whether you get an answer or not, let your child know that you’ve been there too, but don’t push them to talk until they’re ready.
So you’ve stayed calm and casual, but your child still hasn’t opened up to you. What now? Try approaching someone else who is close to your child, like a sibling or a nanny. Express your concerns and ask if your child has told him or her anything. Don’t let your source completely dispel any fears, however, particularly if that source is another child. They might be sworn to secrecy! When all else fails, approach your child very directly. Explain why you’re worried and ask that your child talk to another trusted adult, if they refuse to speak to you.
Take a deep breath.
Your encouragement to open up will most likely encourage them to come to you with their story. The situation may upset you, but it is vital that you don’t get too emotional. Listen. If you become very angry or distressed, your child will feel overwhelmed — if their parent can’t handle this, how can they?
How to Handle the Bullying
Make it normal
Bullying can be a huge knock to your child’s self-esteem. It’s important to show that bullying is — unfortunately — a normal experience. Point to famous and respected role models who have survived teasing, taunting, and worse. Share your own stories.
Create a plan.
Rather than taking matters into your own hands, sit down with your child and decide what steps to take together. You don’t want your child to feel that they have lost control of the situation. Suggest that you approach the school confidentially. If your child opposes all seemingly “sensible” ideas, accept that for now. But if you are worried for your child’s safety or if the situation seems more serious than they are letting on, do feel free to approach the school yourself.
Meet new friends.
Find an extracurricular activity for your child outside of school or go to a new playground, where they can meet new people who haven’t seen him bullied at school.
Consider all angles.
What if the school isn’t doing enough? What if the violence and teasing has made you fear for your child’s safety? Get the police involved. They can monitor the situation through an increased presence in your neighborhood and help you obtain a restraining order. If that seems extreme, try meeting with the parents of the bully. Otherwise: make it a community issue. Put it on the agenda of town meetings and school board discussions.
In schools today, when kids get involved in any physical altercation they can face consequences even if they didn’t start it. It’s better to avoid that situation altogether by encouraging your child to approach the situation in a way that does not match the bully. Always try to use words first – and not angry ones.
Seeing your child hurt and upset will hurt and upset you, so remember take some time for yourself. Have a mom’s night out. Consider taking yourself to a counselor, or going to one as a family. Go away for a weekend together and refrain from mentioning the situation even once.