By Staff Writer
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that half of all school children are bullied at one time or another. Obviously, this is not encouraging news for parents, as there is a high probability that your child will be bullied by a classmate.
There are right and wrong ways for children (and parents) to handle bullying. If your son or daughter is being bullied, here are some things to keep in mind.
Listen to Them
Possibly the worst thing a parent can do is ignore or dismiss a child's complaint of being bullied. It takes a lot of courage for children to admit that someone is picking on them. Respect that courage, and take time to hear them out.
Bullying isn't something kids are likely to lie about, so give your children the benefit of the doubt, and let them tell their story. Get as much information as you can, including names of any teachers or students who may have seen the incident(s). If possible, find out how your child responded to the bullying, too.
Telling your child to "just ignore" a bully can be interpreted by your child to mean that their feelings and situation don't matter to you. Even when there's no physical violence, bullying can have severe detrimental effects on a child's emotional well-being. They need to hear more from you than "just ignore it and it will stop."
Make sure your children know that they're not to blame. They may feel like they've done something wrong, or that they in some way provoked or deserved to be bullied. Talk to them about this. Make sure they understand that it's the bully who did something wrong.
Help your child figure out the best way to respond to the bully. Start by asking "If you could tell the bully anything, what would you say?" Kids usually respond with things like "Leave me alone!" or "Why are you so mean?"
Reinforce your children's right to stand up for themselves. While you don't want to encourage name-calling or other derogatory comments, your children have a right to ask that he be left alone. And they have the right to expect their wishes to be respected.
Contact the School
Chances are, the bully who's picking on your child is picking on other children as well. Contact your child's teachers and principal. Tell them what your child told you. Ask them to keep an eye on the bully and intervene if he or she starts picking on someone.
Keep in mind that these conversations may not go the way you'd like. Some educators unfortunately tend to dismiss bullying as "kids just being kids." Be prepared to stand your ground if you meet with resistance or apathy.
Ask your child, on a regular basis, how things are going at school. Ask specifically about the bully. Find out if the harassment behavior has continued, and what -- if any -- action teachers or other school administrators have taken. This issue may not get resolved right away. It might require multiple conversations with people at your child's school.
Stick with it until the matter is resolved satisfactorily.