Many, many people were bullied as a child. You may have struggled with this yourself.
In the past, kids who were bullied didn’t get much help with it. If they asked adults for guidance, they’d be told something like “just ignore it,” or “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”
But bullying during childhood and adolescence can have some pretty serious consequences. In kids with a family history of mood disorders like anxiety and depression, being antagonized by other kids can easily be the “spark” that triggers these disorders to develop.
The harm a child suffers from being bullied can affect them psychologically for years to come.
You can’t always fight your child’s battles for them. But with that said, there are things you can do, as a parent, to help protect your child from peers who would antagonize them, physically or otherwise.
- Help your child understand bullying. Many kids who are being hurt by other children don’t realize that what’s happening to them counts as bullying. The stereotypical image of bullies you see on Saturday morning cartoons aren’t all that accurate. Rather than being a physically intimidating social outcast, like Nelson from The Simpsons, bullies are often kids who are popular and socially successful. Especially when it comes to emotional and verbal bullying, it’s important that your kids understand what constitutes bullying, and that it’s okay for them to say something to an adult about it.
- Let your child know that they can always talk to you if they think they’re being bullied. Being able to talk to a trusted adult about bullying can make a huge difference for victims. If someone is hurting them, you can be there to talk to them. Along with taking action like letting the school now, or letting the bully’s parents know, you can also help your child just by being there for them and supporting them.
- Talk to the bully’s parents. Well known pop culture “bully” characters are often portrayed as kids from broken homes whose parents don’t care. But this isn’t always the case, by a long shot. A lot of parents have no idea their kid is antagonizing others, and if you tell them, they’ll take action to correct their kid’s behavior. (For example, parents can pursue counseling and therapy for children who engage in bullying behavior.)
- Notify the school. If the bullying is taking place on school grounds, your child’s school may be able to put an end to it. Do keep in mind that schools can’t do anything about what happens outside of school hours and off of the premises.
- Help your child avoid the bully, if possible. Talk to them about how they might be able to minimize their contact with the offending child. You may want to talk to their school about doing something like switching them to a different class.
- Consider enrolling your child in a martial arts class. Martial arts can be great for kids who are bullied, especially if the bullying is physical. Not only does it teach your child safe, effective ways to do things like block physical punches from a bully, but it also helps boost their confidence and self-esteem.
These are just a few of the ways you can do something about bullying if it’s happening to your child.
Sometimes it’s an uphill battle. Schools don’t always listen to parents, although in the wake of “zero-tolerance policies,” they do more than they used to prevent physical bullying.
Being there for your child for emotional support is incredibly important. As their parent, that’s one of the biggest ways you can help.
But it doesn’t end there, and you’re not powerless. You can take action to help protect your child from bullying and the harm that it causes.