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Bullying in schools is currently a national epidemic. Research findings suggest that 19 percent of U.S. elementary students are bullied, and each day 160,000 kids stay home from school because they fear being bullied. It’s no wonder parents are concerned!
Every day parents send their kids off to school there’s a possibility they will be bullied. They might be bullied for how they look, how they dress, for their academic abilities, or for a disability they have. Some students even get bullied just for being the new kid in class.
Although some schools have successfully implemented anti-bullying programs, there are still schools that don’t believe bullying is as big a problem as the research suggests. They continue to wrongfully believe that bullying is just ‘kids being kids.’ Additionally, with more and more kids on social media, bullying can now extend beyond school grounds which intensifies the problem even more.
So how can parents protect their children from bullies and the harmful effects of bullying? Below are some steps parents can take to bully proof their children.
1. Create an accepting home environment. When children feel valued at home, they are better able to handle emotional stress and problems with peers. According to Dr. Caitlyn Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, “if kids are bullied, being accepted by their families has a buffering effect, making them less susceptible to negative outcomes [of bullying].” Show your child you accept them for who they are and that they will always have your support and love. Your child will be more likely to confide in you about bullying if they have a positive relationship with you and feel accepted.
2. Be involved in your child’s life. Parents need to take a genuine interest in their children’s lives. Find out what your child likes and dislikes. Who are their friends? What is the current drama in school? (Doesn’t have to involve them). When your kids see that you care about everyday things that happen in their lives, they will feel comfortable confiding in you when bigger issues arise. Bullies thrive on secrecy and if your child doesn’t feel they can confide in you or other trusted adults, they will suffer the harmful effects of bullying in silence.
3. Build your child’s self-esteem and confidence. Bullies like to prey on children that they think are weak and won’t fight back. Parents can’t always be there to protect their children from being singled out by a bully. However, they can equip their children with the skills needed to stand up to bullies by helping their children develop a healthy self-esteem. Parents can boost a child’s self-esteem by encouraging them to participate in activities that make them feel happy and good about themselves. Praising your child’s effort at home and at school will also boost your child’s confidence. Through praise, your child will be able to see themselves in a positive light.
4. Teach your child about bullying. Sometimes children have a hard time figuring out what behaviors are considered bullying. They might label every conflict with peers as bullying or they might not think the situation is serious enough and feel too embarrassed to tell anyone. Parents can help their children by clearly explaining to them what bullying means. For example, parents can say something like the following:
“Bullying is when someone purposely and repeatedly tries to hurt you with their words and actions and you feel like there’s nothing you can do to stop them.”
Explain to your child that people bully others for numerous reasons. However, make it clear to your child that if they are bullied, it is not their fault. They are not responsible for the actions of people who bully them. Empowering your child with information about bullying helps them to recognize when they are being mistreated and it also gives them the courage to stand up for themselves because they know what is being done to them is wrong
5. Make a plan. Many kids who are bullied suffer in silence because they don’t know what to do. Some kids want to tell on the bully, but are fearful things will get worse if they do. Parents can take the stress off their children by establishing a plan with their child for what to do in the event they are bullied. Having a plan will empower your child because they will know what to do and how to handle a bully. The plan can be as simple as telling your child to ‘buddy up’ with others if they are concerned about bullies. You can also role play a bullying situation with your child to coach them on how to respond to bullies.
Feel free to download this Bully Proof Shield Flip Book to teach kids some things they can do if they are being bullied.