Bullying at school. What should parents do?

Unfortunately, school bullying is not uncommon in today's world. The psychological consequences of bullying can be very, very serious. But parents usually feel helpless and do not know how best to support their child when he or she is bullied by other students. Therefore, it is very important that parents know as much as possible about this topic. 

Bullying comes in many different forms and is often not even recognized as such. First of all, experts distinguish between verbal bullying, such as teasing, threats or taunting, and physical bullying, such as pushing, pinching or hitting. These two forms are also referred to as direct bullying.

There is also so-called indirect bullying, which involves the exclusion of individuals from a certain social group (for example, a certain child is not wanted to be included in the game) or damage to reputation. 

Then there is Cyberbullying, also known as Internet bullying or Internet bullying, which is the slandering, coercion, and harassment of others through the Internet or electronic communications.

The reasons for bullying are complex: often bullies have been bullied or abused themselves and now compensate for their powerlessness by bullying or humiliating others. There is no such thing as a typical victim of bullying.

Anything can be a trigger: physical disability, pimples, clumsiness in gym class. One classmate laughs and bullies, another joins in. Gradually, even those who were once close to the child can distance themselves from him. 

How do you know if a child is a victim of bullying at school?

In order to recognize if your child is being bullied, you should pay attention to the following warning signs (they do not apply to everyone to the same degree, but appear in different forms).

Children being bullied:

  • Often withdrawn, looking anxious and depressed;
  • complain of health problems such as headaches or abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and insomnia;
  • seem nervous and tense, especially after school;
  • no longer want to go to school alone, they ask their parents to bring them;
  • often do not want to go to school at all. School performance declines quickly;
  • justify bodily injury or loss or damage to property;
  • avoid classmates and prefer to stay home alone in the afternoon.

What should parents do?

If your child tells you that he has been bullied, take it seriously. Listen to him first and don't interrupt.

It is incredibly hard for parents to hear that their child has been bullied. There is a desire to immediately deal with the bully directly. However, it is desirable to remain calm and not lose self-control. 

The most important thing is for your child to know that it is not his fault. You should also let him know how great you think it is that he trusted you with his problem. After all, this is not an easy step for many people. A good parent-child relationship is really worth its weight in gold here.

What can also be helpful is to look together for an answer to the question of why the initiator of bullying is not getting along with your daughter or son. When your child understands why classmates bully him or her, he or she will better understand that it is not his or her fault. Bullies can copy the behavior of siblings or parents and know no better. 

Notify the school. If there is a strong suspicion of bullying or if it is confirmed, it is important to contact the school so they can respond early and take the necessary steps to put a stop to it. 

Tip: As a rule, it is not advisable to immediately press charges against the parents of the abusers or the abusers themselves. Parents often do not want to admit that their children have a negative side. In addition, your child's situation may be further weakened. If the situation still hasn't improved after a few weeks or months, don't hesitate to contact school authorities. It is advisable and helpful to gather evidence. For example, if the abusers destroyed your child's belongings, it can be documented with photographs. Take screenshots of social media posts if your child is being bullied online. 

However, if it comes to the point where your child is being physically abused, sometimes it can be helpful and even necessary to go to the police.

What can the child do?

Of course, bullying necessarily requires adult intervention. But there is something the child himself can do to counter bullying. Discuss with him or her the possible methods and find the most appropriate one.

Here are a few examples of what might help:

  1. A confident appearance. Children and young people who are willing to bully others often look for weak and insecure children. For this reason, a confident appearance can help. Try to do what you can to boost your child's self-esteem. Perhaps the child would benefit from a new hobby, an activity that will help the child rediscover himself or herself. Martial arts can also have a positive effect on a child's self-esteem, as well as give them the opportunity to defend themselves in an emergency situation.
  2. Ignoring. The bully expects a reaction from his or her victim. Therefore, it is helpful if your child ignores him or her and does not react to the bullying. If your child manages to stay calm, the bullying child will lose interest. 
  3. Conversation. What many bullies probably don't expect is for you to speak directly to them about their actions. It can be helpful if you tell them directly and firmly that they should stop talking nonsense and that teasing is not good for them.
  4. Avoid the situation. It is not cowardice, it is a practical measure to bypass the place where you are being bullied. If that is not possible, children should make sure that there are other people nearby who can intervene.
  5. Stick together. This is one of the best strategies, because bullies often only target people who are alone. If there are acquaintances and friends around, you're not such a good target.
  6. Ask for support. Your child can turn to the class for support. Bullying can be stopped if it is not tolerated by most disinterested classmates. 
  7. Practice the situation at home. If children practice bullying situations at home with their parents in role-play, they will not be surprised by the many actions and statements in an emergency situation and will be better able to respond to them.

However, if bullying attacks are very numerous and your child has already developed an "outsider position" in the classroom, these strategies that your child can use on their own are only an additional method. In severe cases, victims of bullying can barely defend themselves without making the situation worse. They depend on outside help and, therefore, on your direct initiative as a parent.

If the situation gets out of control and does not improve even after parents and teachers have been involved, and the child feels depressed and unable to change anything, you should seek help from a child psychotherapist. He will help work through the situation and prescribe therapy to deal with the effects of bullying. 

If your child is the instigator of bullying?

Do you suspect that your child is bullying other students? Then the same applies to you as to the parents of possible victims: try talking to the school. Your child needs to know that you are communicating with the teachers. You must also make it clear that you will not tolerate bullying. And you must find out what is causing your child's behavior and help them change their behavior.

Conclusion

The tips mentioned above can certainly help, but unfortunately, bullying often continues even after active counteraction.

If your child has been victimized, you absolutely need to act, not just watch. Always listen to him, take what he says seriously, and preferably talk to friends, other parents, teachers and, if necessary, a psychologist. If nothing at all helps, you should definitely think about changing schools.

And lastly, a few more tips that may help:

What should I do if my child is hiding the fact that he is being bullied at school?

In this case it makes sense to talk frankly and with great sensitivity with the child. It is often difficult to start a conversation. Bullying is full of anger and shame. Learn to listen. Also, under no circumstances should a parent blame a child for something that happened to him or her. In this case, there is a good chance that the child will confide in you. 

What shouldn't you do?

  1. Talk to the parents of bullies. Most parents defend their child and thereby justify his aggressive behavior.
  2. Talk to the bullies themselves. Parents who are looking for a reason to talk are signaling to bullies that their child cannot defend himself. In doing so, they are weakening their child's position.
  3. Take your child with you to the first meeting with the teacher. Depending on the attitude of the teacher, such an encounter can be unpleasant for the child.

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