A few years ago, nine Massachusetts teenagers were charged with bullying over several months that led to suicide of a 15-year-old girl. Unfortunately, this was not and is not an isolated event. Bullying is occurring with more frequency and more severity in our schools and in our society.
According to the Heroes and Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit center for parents, one in 10 students is bullied at least once a week, and one in three has experienced bullying as either a bully or a target during the average school term. Bullying can be physical, verbal or emotional—in-person or online, with physical and/or emotional consequences. Bullying is not normal and does not “build character.”
What Parents Can Do
Victims of bullying may lose interest in school, have frequent nightmares, headaches or other illnesses. They may begin to misuse drugs or break the law. They may become anxious, sullen, scared or angry—and yet never mention being bullied.
Watch for signs. Take it seriously. Listen to your child. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your child’s teacher. Help your child get involved in a new group or activity.
Reassure your child. Help your child to understand that what someone says about him does not reflect his value. Provide reassurance that this will be resolved.
Encourage confidence. Physical activity and developing new skills are ways to build confidence.
Help your child solve the problem herself. By learning the skills to stand up for herself, she can use them in other situations.
Teach Your Children
Teach your child to say, “Leave me alone.” Bullies look for a reaction, whether it be fear, subservience or anger. If they are met directly and with confidence, they often go elsewhere.
Walk away. It is often the best approach.
Tell an adult. Let your child know he can talk with you or tell a counselor if he is being bullied. Keeping silent is what the bully counts on.
Avoid a physical response. Bullies are usually more familiar with using violence than is your child. An aggressive response leads to more bullying.
Cultivate new friendships. Being bullied can help you feel alone. Friends who believe in you are a world of comfort. Stay close to them so that you are less frequently alone.
Dads can provide a listening ear, an understanding heart and, when necessary, an intervention to help ensure the safe environment that is so important for healthy growth.