Bullying is an awful experience. It can create low-self esteem, isolation and nightmares. What are the signs to look for? What do you do if when your child is bullied?...
My Thing 2 was having a problem with another child in school. Nothing physical. My take was that she was just being bossed around (kids will be kids right?). "She's a bully!" Thing 2 would tell me. But I responded "ignore" "walk away" "talk to the teacher" .
I always thought "bullying" was actual physical contact. Wrong! There is social bullying - excluding someone from the group. There is emotional/verbal bullying - insulting and making fun of someone. Racial bullying - making fun of someone's ethnicity. Sexual and homophobic bullying - making sexual comments, inappropriate touching or spreading sexuality rumours. Sibling bullying - which can include verbal and physical bullying from one sibling towards another. Cyber bullying - using texts, social media and the Internet to be cruel to someone.
I had the chance to interview Shawna Ginsberg, a counselor at Kids Help Phone about bullying. [KidsHelpPhone.ca is a Canadian phone counseling, referral and ask online service for children and youth - which parents and kids should know about. It's FREE, bilingual and open 24/7; providing support to kids when they need it most.]
Caroline: What signs can parents look for - indicators that kids are being bullied?
•afraid to go to school or other activities
•injuries or damaged clothing or property
•appears unhappy or irritable
•trouble sleeping, nightmares
C: What is a parent to do? - Tell kids to stand up for themselves? Walk away?
SG: These are some things a parent may want to ask:
Have they tried ignoring and walking away?
Have they thought about how their own behaviour may be making the problem bigger or smaller?
Do they act confident? Hold their head up? Make eye contact? Walk confidently?
Are they being assertive rather then aggressive?
Listen to your child but don't dismiss the issue by reciting accounts of when you were bullied. Kids tend to want to be taken seriously and have the focus be about their own experience. Let them know that they have already done so much by coming forward. That takes a lot of strength and courage!
Kids need to know they can turn to their parents, teachers and coaches in times of trouble.
Thing 2 asked me three days in a row to call this "bully's" parents. Turns out she was being verbally bullied and was in tears everyday at school. I knew something had to be done but I didn't think calling the parents was the way to go (we didn't need to bring parent drama into the mix).
I wrote a note to the teacher simply stating there seemed to be some problems between the two kids and could they be separated as much as possible. The teacher promptly returned a note at the end of the day - thanking me for bringing the issue to her attention - and that the two children would, in fact, be separated.
Thankfully, there have been no further bullying issues since my intervention.
Not all children are as lucky. If your child is showing any of the above signs of bullying...talk to them...because bullying is an awful experience.