In North America, 64% of school-aged kids experience bullying in some form or another at some point in their lifetime. It’s devastating to experience this not only for your child but also for the parents who feel helpless.
Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumours about them.
In the past, bullying was limited to during school hours when kids are in the same physical space but with social media and the proliferation of digital devices amongst young people, bullying has expanded its boundaries to beyond school grounds.
With the technology age, social media can be the starting point of the bullying and spill into school grounds or vice versa. The unfortunate fact is that bullying is amplified on social media reaching more people to include even family and friends of classmates and the broader community. The sad truth is that anyone can be a bully and could even do it anonymously behind a screen and the information can live in cyberspace forever.
When bullying is anonymous, it’s even more difficult to deal with the issue head on. You really don’t even know who is perpetuating the situation and it could be several people. This is the reality with technology and it poses a challenge for our kids and their mental health and well-being.
As single parents, we probably don’t have as much dedicated time to spend with our kids and don’t have as much opportunity to have the quality conversations that help us identify whether our child(ren) is experiencing bullying.
With social media and the proliferation of digital devices amongst young people, bullying has expanded its boundaries to beyond school grounds.
Recognizing the Signs
As a parent, we can expect that our kids will experience some form of bullying at some point in their school life. It’s not an act targeted only to geeks and misfits. Even popular kids get bullied.
We just need to bring the topic up so our kids know how to recognize it, understand the root cause and learn how to cope with the situation when it arises.
Some signs that indicate your child is being bullied include the following:
- Making excuse for not wanting to go to schools
- Showing physical signs like bruises and scratches, torn personal belongings
- Losing sleep
- Growing anxiety, moodiness or short temperedness
- Avoiding certain situations or areas for fear of encountering the bully
- Loss of appetite
- Poor concentration and declining marks
- Negative talk and low self-esteem
- Talks about suicide and displays no self worth
Confronting the Problem
When you suspect that your child is being bullied, what do you do? Most of us are not trained as parents to deal with these situations. In fact, when you try to approach the topic, your child might even deny it because he / she feels humiliated, hurt or scared.
Depending on your relationship with your child, you may have to approach it delicately. If you have open communication with your child, it may be easy to just ask them directly and he’ll be honest with you. But if you don’t have open communication, your child may carry this burden and not want to open up.
For those who have open communication with their kids, it’s probably easier to detect bullying. You can ask them directly and they’ll probably tell you. For those parents who don’t have open communication, with their kids, the topic may be more sensitive. Some ideas on framing the conversation:
- How are you getting along with people in your class?
- Are you feeling any challenges in school?
- Are there kids in school that are aggressive?
If your child is being bullied, then the next step would be to find out who it is and when it is happening. It’s critical to be able to help them cope with it so that it doesn’t get worse but that it can be nipped immediately
Coping with the Bullying
Now that you’ve discovered the details of the situation, be supportive and help him to cope with the incidences. Kids will sometimes withhold telling their parents details because they are worried that it will get worse if teachers and other administrators find out. Their biggest fear is if there is retaliation for tattle tailing. Some things you can do:
- Create a safe environment for them to open up and talk to you at home about it
- Create a safe and empowered environment for them at school by talking to the counselor
- Let the school know that this is happening and get advice on whether the school can
- Talk to his friends and ask them to be the eyes and ears so that there could be witnesses and evidence to support the case
- Get support from friends and families to reinforce his worth and restore his self esteem
- You might want to consider moving him schools if the school is not supportive.
Getting the School Involved
Schools are responsible for keeping our kids educated and safe. These days bullying is not tolerated and is a serious matter.
Take the matter to school authorities and hold them accountable to rectifying the situation. Your child may not want the information to be shared because of humiliation and embarrassment but let your child know:
- the school will support you and provide you with a safe place to learn
- he is loved and has a lot to offer this world
- the situation will stop and everything will get better
Reinforcing Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Bullying makes your child feel powerless and trapped. Surround him with people who love and support him and engage him in activities he enjoys and is good at. Creating an environment where he thrives will reinforce his self-esteem and confidence.
The healing process will take some time and the scars could be there for a lifetime. Continue to listen, be caring and mindful of the sensitivities of dealing with bullying head on. Not every child is comfortable with sharing this information in the open but opening up will help find a solution and expedite the healing process.
Bullying in this age of technology is far more complex than ever before. The situation can get exacerbated so quickly and amplified so easily. It’s tough to be a kid in this complex world. But the bottom line is, as a parent, if you nurture and support your children and instill confidence in them, the impact may be mitigated to a certain degree.
Open communication and a sensitive approach to the topic, will help you help him find a comfortable and effective solution to stop the bullying.