No one deserves to be bullied or have someone be mean to them, but for many children, bullying is an unfortunate occurrence at school. Believe it or not, according to some harrowing statistics on bullying at schools from the Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, 77 percent of students are bullied either mentally, verbally, or physically. Cyberbullying is also on the rise, with 43 percent of students reporting online abuse. What can you do if you suspect that your child is involved in bullying at school?
Assess the Situation
It’s important to remember that not all bad behavior is actually an instance of bullying. Sometimes, kids are just mean to each other, but hurtful behavior isn’t necessarily bullying. In general, bullying is identified through three specific behaviors/situations:
- An imbalance of power
- Repeated hurtful behavior
- An intention to cause harm
What does that mean? It means that often bullies are physically larger, potentially older, and may be more popular than the victim, though popular students can be bullied, too. It also means that the hurtful behavior isn’t a one time instance said in a heated moment; it’s repeated behavior that has a specific goal to cause harm to the victim, mentally, physically, or emotionally. Not every instance of bullying fits neatly into these three criteria, so if you're concerned, reach out to a trained professional.
Talk to a Trained Professional
If you suspect a situation of bullying, it’s always a good idea to seek the opinion of a trained professional. That help can come in the form of talking to your pediatrician, therapist, or another medical professional. But, did you know that help can also come from professionals at your child’s school? Administrators, school counselors, and teachers are usually trained to spot and manage instances of bullying, and can address the problem once it’s identified. But, sometimes they need your help to truly identify a potential issue. Often, school administrators and teachers can also shed some light on the situation, and help you better understand what is happening at school and how to fix it.
Talk it Out with Your Child
It’s important to really talk with your child about the situation and get a full understanding of what is happening. Talking about when the instances of bullying occur, where they take place, and what happened just before and earlier that day can all help you to better address the situation. Asking questions can sometimes lead to solutions and tips on how to manage a difficult situation. Then, you can also better determine if you need to seek outside help, though if you have concerns, it’s always a good idea to reach out for a second opinion.
Talk to the Other Child’s Parents
Having a conversation with the family of the other child can be helpful. It’s important to remember that no one wants to hear that their child is acting inappropriately, so the way you approach this situation is important. Instead of going straight in and accusing the other child of bullying, you might consider approaching the conversation from a more collaborative solution. Mentioning that you’ve noticed some strain between the two children, and that you’d like to help the children get along better can sometimes work to open up a dialogue. Pointing fingers from the start, however, can sometimes make the other party shut down instead of engaging in constructive conversation that could help you find a common solution to the problem.
Think about Solutions
While the goal is to find a solution to the problem and end it, sometimes, that’s just not possible. As a parent, you need to determine if your child’s school can adequately address the problem.
Find Strategies for Managing the Situation
Sometimes, a classroom change or separating students at recess or lunch can eliminate a difficult situation like bullying by simply reducing the ability for the two parties to come into contact. Then, the school has the potential to focus on promoting good behavior with the student engaging in bullying behavior over time, while removing the victim from the situation completely. There may also be suggestions from a trained professional of strategies the victim can employ when faced with a bully, or even just bad behavior. Not everyone knows what to do, and better understanding what to do can make a huge difference.
Get More People Involved
One tip that many professionals recommend is ensuring that the child subjected to bullying has a large support system. Being alone or feeling like no one understands what's happening can be damaging, so make sure that after you talk to your child's main teacher and/or principal, that they engage other adults in monitoring the situation; bullying should be front and center for teachers, and you may want to involve anyone else who may be able to help, including other parents. Cheshire Academy's Director of Counseling Services wrote this article on how to make friends in middle school that you might find helpful.
Safety in Numbers
We all know that facing a difficult situation alone can be hard. So, make sure your child has a strong friend group to rely on for support. Teachers can be helpful in identifying peers who might be a great fit and encouraging a new friendship to bloom, if your child is struggling to make friends. Not only will your child have someone to talk to and sit with at lunch, but also bullies are often less likely to target a victim who isn't alone, so spending time with a group of friends is ideal.
Be Ready for Some Tough Decisions
Strategies for managing these tricky situations can be helpful, but sometimes they just aren’t enough. If you’re not comfortable with the school’s ability to handle the situation or the progress being made in addressing the issues, you might need to make some tough decisions, including switching schools.
While switching schools may seem drastic, ensuring that your child feels safe at school is crucial. You might consider a number of potential solutions for switching schools, including school choice to move to another public school, or explore the local options for private schools.
Many private schools pride themselves on maintaining the most supportive and positive community possible, ensuring that your child can find a school where he or she can truly fit in. Since private schools, like Cheshire Academy, interview and evaluate every student who applies and chooses who gets to attend, you know that your child will be surrounded by like-minded peers and supportive teachers.