Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.' Remember that old rhyme? It wasn't true when you were in school, and it isn't true now. Teasing, taunting and other forms of bullying can cause serious emotional harm to children that lasts much longer than the bloody nose or scraped knees. Ignoring or excusing the behaviour, saying things like 'kids will be kids,' only perpetuates the situation.
Bullying takes place in every school. The children most likely to experience bullying are in fifth, sixth and seventh grades. Boys are more likely to be involved than girls.
There are three types of bullying. It can be physical (hitting, kicking, taking things or returning things damaged), verbal (name-calling, taunting, insulting), or emotional (shunning, spreading nasty gossip). It is deliberate and hurtful behavior, usually repeated over a period of time. Bullying is almost always done to kids who are perceived to be more vulnerable than the bullies.
The fear of being harassed in school gets in the way of learning, and makes going to school a miserable experience. Being bullied can make children feel lonely, unhappy and unsafe. Children who are being bullied may develop stomach aches, nightmares, nervousness and anxiety.
What Parents Can Do
If your child complains about being bullied at school, or if you suspect that might be happening, here are some suggestions.
* Make it clear that you accept your child's reports of what is happening and that you take them seriously. They need to know they have someone on their side who is willing to help them. Today, you are their hero.
* Reassure them that this situation can be resolved.
* At the same time, let them know that you do not think this is their fault. Their confidence has already taken a big hit, and they already feel like a victim.
* While it is natural to want to protect your child by solving the problem for him, it will serve your child better if you teach them how to solve the problem themselves. By learning the skills to stand up for themselves, they can use them in other situations.
* Ask your child how they have been dealing with the bullying, talk about what else can be done and discuss what actions you can both take to solve the problem. Reassure them you will consult them before taking any action.
* Teach your child how to respond to a bully in a bold, assertive way.
* Practice with him at home by role-playing. Participation in other activities builds confidence and develops social skills, making it easier to find ways of saying, "Leave me alone."
* Suggest that your child stick with two or more other children when at the playground, the bus stop or wherever they come face-to-face with the bully.
* Make sure your child knows it is okay to ask for help from a teacher or other adult. Practice what they will say so they don't sound like they're whining or tattling.
* Determine if your child has healthy friendships with other children. If not, perhaps they can benefit by developing better social skills.
* Encourage them to invite friends over to your home and participate in school activities.
* If necessary, meet with school representatives to discuss the problem.
* Remember, bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Help your child develop the necessary tools to stick up for themselves and others.
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