Your child comes home from school and runs straight to their room without so much as a “hello.” That night, they refuse to eat dinner, and when they wake up the next day, they beg you not to make them get on the bus. For many children, this is worrying behavior, as it may indicate that there’s an issue in the classroom. Sudden changes in your kid’s demeanor may suggest that they’re being bullied. If this is the case, it can seem like an impossible situation to deal with. But rest assured that there are several ways you can help your child.
1. Listen Without Judgement. Often, parents try to get to the bottom of this issue by asking their child what they did wrong. “Did you do something to upset them?” and “What were you doing when this happened?” are both questions that won’t get you anywhere. Try not to make assumptions as you figure out what’s going on. Bullies usually act the way they do for several personal reasons and it’s rarely something your kid incited. So, as your child tells you what’s happened, listen with an open mind. More than anything, they need acceptance and love. A head full of self-doubt will only make matters worse.
2. Keep Your Cool. Above all else, stay calm and collected. It’s natural to want to confront the bully and their family, but try to focus your energy on your child individually. They need all the love and support you can muster.
3. Emphasize Kindness. In this case, it’s essential to take the high road. This is an excellent opportunity to teach empathy. Your child’s bully likely has personal issues that contribute to the way they act. They’re a kid, too—whatever’s going on is often out of their control. Remember that we should always treat others the way we’d like to be treated. While this is an incredibly difficult situation, ask your child to turn their emotions into something beneficial. Do they know someone who sits alone during recess or lunch? Tell them to sit with them. Is this bully picking on a classmate as well? Have your child speak up on their behalf. After all, everyone needs a friend. This is something that will stick with them for the rest of their life.
4. Alert Their Teacher. Usually, bullies operate when authority figures aren’t around—on the bus, at recess or in the cafeteria. They typically won’t say or do anything of concern directly in the classroom. This means that your child’s teacher may not even be aware that this is happening. Similarly, some parents don’t want to bother or rope-in faculty members. Be sure to bring this matter to their attention and put your pride aside. Organize a meeting where you can sit down and discuss what’s going on. Above all else, educators want to keep their students safe. They can and will do so much on their end to remedy the situation.
5. Think of Solutions Together. Once this is brought to your attention, sit down with your child and brainstorm together. They’ll likely feel defeated, so take this time to empower them. Who can they sit with at lunch or play with at recess? They won’t need an army of friends to accomplish this, just one or two. Formulate an action plan in case the problem persists. What teachers are present at these times? Who can they confide in when something goes wrong? You may even want to teach them a few witty comebacks to help build up their self-esteem. Consider all the ways your child can take control.
6. Encourage Friendships. Studies show that the more parents do to advocate for their child’s friendships, the happier and more confident they are. Take the time to ask your kid about their friends. Organize activities or get-togethers, so they have a chance to hang out. If your child doesn’t connect with too many kids at their school, introduce extracurriculars into their schedules. When a child is being bullied, they often feel like they aren’t good enough for these kinds of relationships. If you take on more of a role in this aspect, your kid will start to love social interactions once more. Friends are crucial in so many ways, so be sure to encourage them.
7. Change Their Environment. Sometimes, the best way to tackle this problem is to switch your child’s environment. Consult with their teacher and principal and ask that they’re moved to a different classroom. This will separate them from their bully so they can thrive. Remember that schools only allow this in certain circumstances, so be sure to create an honest and open dialogue with faculty. If you suspect that your kid would perform better away from a physical school entirely, they can obtain a more individualized education from an online charter. Either way, change is helpful in this instance.