Success in school depends on many factors, including how well a child interacts socially with classmates. With school back in session, attention turns to an issue that’s often in the spotlight – bullying. Regardless of whether your child has had personal experience with bullying, it’s important to talk about how to recognize bullying and to make sure your child understands how and why it’s harmful. One of the most important things you can do is help your child develop an empathetic awareness of others’ feelings and what it means to be a good friend. It’s also a good idea to talk regularly with your child about school, activities and friends.
If you think your child is being bullied, there are some common signs and symptoms that often accompany this, such as frequent stomachaches, headaches and a lack of desire to attend school. If you suspect something is wrong, trust your instincts and talk to your child. Reassure by letting your child know that you care and are there to listen and help, if necessary. Generally, it’s not a good idea to tell your child you won’t tell anyone about the bullying, especially if it becomes clear you need to contact the school or another parent.
Many parents feel helpless when their child is the victim of bullying. There are some things you can do, however, to address the situation. Practice role-playing with your child at home. Encourage your child to react firmly and confidently to harsh words. Stress that responding with insults or physical aggression will only make the problem worse. Suggest that your child participate in activities that will build self-esteem and allow him or her to meet new people.
If your child is reluctant or embarrassed to share information with you, and you still suspect there is a problem with bullying, consider contacting a school counselor for guidance and support. (If you think your child is in physical danger, contact the school immediately.) Your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician may also have good advice and can direct you to reputable resources or a specialist.