The effects of bullying can be serious and impact a child’s sense of self-worth and safety for a lifetime. It is important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off.
As a parent, if you suspect your child is being targeted, knowing what steps to take can be difficult, especially if your child refuses to tell you exactly what is happening. Do not ignore the problem. Ask the principal or teachers, family doctor, staff at your military family resource centre or other trusted sources for help.
“Create an environment of support for your child. Give them the message they are not alone and that you are available to them should they want to talk about their feelings. Remember it can be embarrassing to be anyone’s victim. They may not want to talk at first,” said Dr. Neil Gottheil, clinical psychologist, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and clinical director of Turning Corners Psychological Services, Ottawa.
Parental intervention is vital, but if a child does not want you to intervene, suggest they keep a record of the bullying. Talk calmly and stress the child is not to blame. Explain if the bullying continues, you will decide together whether outside help is needed advises Gottheil.
Gottheil recommends parents stay connected with their child, validate their feelings. Listen to their worries and let them know it is okay to feel that way. Offer assurance without making them feel like you are trying to talk them out of feeling that way. Let them know everyone worries, even adults, at one time or another. But, also make sure they know there are ways they can feel better and less fearful.
Talk to the principal or teachers. Although children and teens can resolve many incidents of bullying on their own, keep an eye on the situation. If it persists, get involved by talking to your child’s teacher or school counsellor. Familiarize yourself with school board policy and the school’s policy then describe the situation to them before even mentioning any names. Find out what their plan is and then decide your next next steps.
Go over some strategies your child can use. Sometimes ignoring the bully and walking away is the best you can do in an unsafe situation. According to Gottheil bullies often give up when they don’t get a response from their target.
“Bullied kids may also feel friendless, but friendship making skills can be learned. It’s been proven that even one close friend can have a positive impact on the mental health of a child. If they know there is one person who knows and understands them then there must be others out there,” explained Gottheil.
Gotteil tell parents it is important to remain positive at trying to find a solution and this attitude needs to be passed on to your child. Assist your child with learning that a confident and resilient appearance can lead to the bully becoming disinterested.
“They can learn to offer a confident presentation through their posture, their voice and their non-verbal cues. They can learn this through gentle role play. As the child gains confidence the role play can become more realistic. The child needs to realize the first time they try their newfound skills out they may not be successful as the bully is still trying to make them a target. However, if they persist they will be less likely seen as a target down the road,” said Gottheil
Most children do not understand why they have been targeted. A discussion with your child as to why some children bully others will help them to understand that it is not their fault someone has chosen them to pick on.