Q. I am worried that my son is being bullied at school. What should I do?
A. You are right for being worried about your son. Bullying has become a big problem for kids in today's world and the psychological impact is great. Kids who are bullied tend to have a lower self esteem and are more likely to struggle with depression. There are, however, things you can do to help your child deal with bullies. First, instruct them that they can tell you or any trusted adult whenever they are being bullied. Telling is not tattling. Then try the following:
(1) Talk with your child. Ask direct questions such as: “Are there any kids at school who are picking on you or bullying you?” “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?” More subtle questions would be: “Are there any kids at school who you don’t like? Why not? Do they leave you out of things?” Reassure your child you are there for him.
(2) Talk with the staff at your child’s school. Meet with your child’s teacher. He or she will probably be in the best position to understand the relationships between your child and other peers at school. Share your concerns and ask about how your child relates to his classmates. Allow the school to set up an appointment with the parents of the bully to curtail the bullying if needed. (See footnote 1)
You may want to suggest your child do the following when dealing with bullies:
- Do not fight back.
- Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
- Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
- Calmly tell the student to stop…or say nothing and then walk away. Use humor, if this is easy for you to do.
- Try to avoid situations where bullying is likely to happen. You might want to: 1) Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around. 2) Make sure you aren’t alone in the bathroom or locker room. 3) Sit near the front of the bus. 4) Don’t bring expensive things or a lot of money to school. 5) Sit with a group of friends at lunch. 6)Take a different route through the hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes. (See footnote 2)
Be sure to check back next week to see a follow up article on bullying and what warning signs to look for in your child if he or she is being bullied.
*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
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