It can be difficult for parents to know if their child is a victim of bullying and to take decisive action to protect him or her. Children are often ashamed at what they perceive to be their own problem, so they may not confide in their families. It is up to parents to identify the signs of bullying, provide support and take steps to help prevent the situation in the future.
Common signs of a child who is bullied include:
- Reluctance to go to school. When a child who previously enjoyed school suddenly begins complaining of frequent stomachaches or other ailments to avoid going, this could be sign of bullying.
- Reluctance to get on the school bus. If the bus is the location of bullying, children may lobby for parents to drive them to school or even ask if they can walk or ride a bike.
- Sudden withdrawal from friends. If a former friend is the bully, a child may not want to be part of a group anymore.
Parents who suspect that children are being bullied have several options to help their child cope with the situation, including:
- Enlist the help of school officials. Approaching teachers, principals and others in the role of seeking help rather than accusing can allow parents to gain allies. A good way to do this is to ask teachers what they have observed and listen to their responses.
- See if there are other victims of the same bully. A little investigation can help uncover other children who are afraid of or dislike the bully in question, which may help parents determine what is happening or why their child is a target.
- Assess the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what is setting the bully off may help parents uncover reasons for bullying. At the same time, parents can help children play up their strengths so that they have better self-esteem, which is often an antidote for bullying.
- Create a safe haven for children to vent. Telling a child that he or she “should not feel that way” or that the child simply needs to “grow up” will likely shut down lines of communication. Children should always have a safe place to vent in their own homes.
- Seek counseling. Some bullying problems are very serious. If a child shows any sign of depression or rage, counseling should be considered.
Parents can be a child’s strongest ally in the fight against bullying. By following some commonsense tips, parents can turn a negative bullying experience into a positive growth opportunity for a child.