Let’s Put an End to Bullying
“How did I miss this? Why didn’t he tell me what was happening? If I had known sooner, I could have done something! “ As parents, we try hard to avoid getting out of sync with our family. We have all found ourselves wondering how to encourage our kids to talk to us about the issues they face. While we may feel helpless or even unwanted at times, the good news is children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help with tough decisions. Getting them to talk is probably easier than you think, it’s just a matter of creating some time and space to connect. Spending 10-15 minutes a day talking with your kids reassures them that you are available and attentive. If you want to hear about the big things happening in your child’s life, you have to listen to the little things.
For some families, conversation about daily life, classes, activities, friends, and hobbies comes easily and the topics flow. Other families may feel out of practice, uncomfortable, or artificial when they try to communicate. Breaking the ice, or getting back to face-to-face communication is worth trying. Chances are your child (yes, even your teenager) has also been longing to connect with you.
Here are some ideas to help start conversations about your child’s daily life and feelings:
- What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
- What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
- What is it like to ride the school bus?
- What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?
- How does your teacher handle problems in the classroom? Do you think those methods are effective?
When It comes to bullying, having a foundation of good communication and a feeling of security at home can literally be life saving! Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how this issue might be affecting your child or the school your child attends. Even if your child is not directly involved in bullying, an environment where bullying thrives can put everyone at risk. The solutions to bullying depend largely on the bystanders deciding their school should be a place where every student feels safe. We can teach our children this message both directly and indirectly when we talk with them. There are no right or wrong ways to address these topics, but it is important to encourage kids to speak honestly. Assure kids they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise.
You can start having conversations at home with questions like these:
- What does “bullying” mean to you?
- Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
- Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
- Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
- What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
- Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
- What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
- Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
- Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?
Expert Tip: Try listening without planning a reply. Instead, focus on trying to understand how your child is processing and feeling. If you don’t know how to reply, ask your child how you can help. You may be surprised by the answer. Finding out what would feel helpful goes a long way towards encouraging them to continue talking.
We tune into our children when we listen to answers from questions like the ones above. We show our children that they have valuable thoughts in their mind and those thoughts can turn into words and actions, which have the power to impact others. A child who believes in their own ability is not likely to bully others or tolerate bullying around them.
We spend so much time away from our children that it’s important to continually learn about how teachers, friends, social media and other influences are shaping and changing who they are. When we listen, we stay tuned into the person they are becoming and we send them the message that they are worth knowing. A child who believes that they are worth knowing, worth our time, worth out effort, worth our support is as bullyproof as can be.
There are simple ways to keep up-to-date with kids’ lives. This is especially important for parents who split time with another caregiver or who travel and are away from home often.
Tips for staying up-to-date with your child’s life:
- Read class newsletters and school flyers. Talk about them at home.
- Check out the school website
- Attend school events and parent nights
- Greet the bus driver
- Meet teachers and counselors or reach out by email
When we take time to talk with our children, we provide an example of how to listen, solve problems, and consider others. The antidote to bullying is building kids who feel capable, confident, and worthwhile. Kids who receive this message at home share it with others.
Theresa Randazzo-Burton, MD
Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist
Follow our Blog for more on this series. Dr. Burton will visit topics related to bullying in more detail in weeks to come. She will tackle the topics of cyberbullying, helping your child form a peer group, identifying bullying at home, bully proofing, bouncing back from bullying, and more. Check with the Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach this fall to join our Bouncing Back Group for kids to have experienced bullying.