Parenting a child who is being bullied has to be one of the most difficult things a mother and father can experience. What can you say to your child to make it better? How can you help them? I am fortunate to have extraordinary blogger Amy Williams here to provide us with some invaluable insights from her personal experience as a mom.
Parenting a Child Who’s Being Bullied
Our child would sometimes come home after school and walk right past me, straight to his room. I had assumed he needed little bit of time to decompress.
Once I heard him sobbing. My son is twelve years old, and it turns out he had been bullied for the past few months by a boy and a girl.
Dealing with this was difficult for both of us, but I learned a lot that I have found worth sharing. Parenting a child who’s being bullied takes innate parental sense as well as learned skills to navigate.
Keep an eye out for some telltale signs. These are a few suggestions on how to approach this dilemma described here.
What to Look For
In our chaotic world, it may be hard to notice signs of your child being bullied. Take a pause to look at and listen to your kid, it may be staring you right in the face.
Challenged School Grades – If grades are suffering, especially if your child usually doesn’t have a problem with school work, this could be an indication of a bullying issue.
Depression – Withdrawal from friends and family is often mistaken for teen angst. Yes, it’s normal for teens to be monosyllabic and mouthy, but if silent withdrawal occurs, it could be a problem they are trying to work out, or avoid.
Exhibit Violent Behavior – This is beyond bloody Xbox games. If your child begins to show aggressive responses, yelling, or an interest in “revenge,” take note.
Red Flag Words – Certain words can be indications of bullying. For example, if you ask your child how school was and they say there was “drama” or “messing around,” this could mean they are being bullied.
Hunger – That’s right, if your kid comes home more famished than usual, their lunch may be falling into bully hands. They can also be skipping lunch for fear of being made fun of.
Damage – Don’t assume your kid is just the scrappy type when they come home with a torn book bag or lost sneaker. These could be repercussions of being bullied.
These signs your child is being bullied may be the safety net your kid wants but is too afraid to ask for.
Getting Them to Open Up
Jerry Weichman, PhD, a licensed psychologist specializing in teens and tweens at California’s Hoag Neurosciences Institute, comments on why your child may not report being bullied:
“They may worry that admitting they’re victims will disappoint their parents.”
Be sure to address them gently, as many kids feel that reporting being bullied is tattling.
Cindy Miller, a recognized school social worker, psychotherapist and writer, reminds us:
“Reporting is stating that someone’s hurting you and you’re trying to get help. Tattling is trying to get someone in trouble.”
Miller also recommends to avoid directly asking your child what’s wrong and instead pose separate questions such as the following:
“When you say, ‘messing around,’ did anyone get physical with you? Did someone spread a rumor about you or call you a name? How did you feel when the ‘drama’ occurred?”
“Who did you sit with at lunch today? Did you like your food? What did you and your friends talk about?”
Remember, don’t bombard them with questions, try to mask them as one-at-a-time, matter-of-fact statements to possibly get them to open up.
There is much shame connected to being bullied, especially when kids don’t want to stand up for themselves.
The signs of being cyberbullied are similar to some of those mentioned above. Dr. Weichman recommends purchasing some monitoring software first. This is an excellent tool to get a look at what’s going on, enabling parents to avoid going into the situation blind.
In the meantime, it is a good idea to brief your child on dealing with cyberbullying, regardless of whether they are a victim or not.
This would include teaching them to never respond to cyberbullying and always attempt to block, shut down and immediately report written, photographic, or video attacks.
Parenting a child who is being bullied should be approached as calmly as possible. Emotional overreactions only add to your child’s stress and causes them to crawl further into their shell.
Also keep in mind that there are now psychiatric professionals able to deal with helping bullied children cope.