As any good mother can testify, the beginning of the school year brings a mixed-bag of emotions. On the one hand, excitement for our children’s educational development, and even the possibility of a few hours in the day to pursue activities that were not previously possible encourage many mothers to look forward to the time when their child attends formal education. Many mothers even look at this time as an opportunity to return to the workplace or even embark on a course of higher education. At the same time, however, there are many safety issues that preoccupy the minds of many others, and in particular, the bullying issue.
Bullying in school, is one of the major sources of concern for parents at the beginning of the academic year. Yet, a little forward thinking can assist children to recognize and successfully overcome instances of verbal, physical or mental abuse in the educational environment.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some practical assistance for parents looking for guidance on how to approach the issue. It is important to distinguish bullying from normal disagreements. Bullying is “when a child picks on another child repeatedly.” It can occur anywhere on the school grounds, in the neighborhood, and even on the school bus. Increasing numbers of young people are using social networking sites to stay in touch with peers, and so it is important to recognize that bullying can also occur over the internet.
Whether a parent suspects their child is being bullied or not, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. The American Academy of Pediatrics point out the benefits of helping young people to learn how to react to negative situations will, in turn, reduce their likelihood of being victimized.
If confronted by a bully;
Maintain eye contact. This shows that you are not easily intimidated. Stay calm in a difficult situation. Do not escalate the problem. Walk away. Tell someone about the confrontation.
Bullies thrive on fear. Most who are victimized do not want to “stand up” to their challenger dreading the prospect of making the problem worse by making the tormenter “angry” with them. Depending on the individual child’s confidence level, some things that could be said include;
“I don’t like what you are doing.” “Please do NOT talk to me like that.” “Why would you say that?”
One of the most important things to teach children, however, is to ask for help. A child must never feel ashamed to ask an adult for support.
Children must also learn that bullying, under any circumstances, is wrong. Witnessing an attack on another individual, even if they may not directly participate, still requires a degree of moral and social responsibilities. If we educate our children to report bullying when they witness it occurring on their school campus, they then become advocates for the cause, and help keep their peers safe.
The single most important thing parents can do, is adopt a zero tolerance, proactive approach, and ensure their child knows what to do if another student bullies them, or someone they know. Further information on bullying can be found at: http://www.stopbullying.gov/