When you send your kids off to school, you hope that they are safe and happy. But if your kid gets bullied at school, it can be hard to know how to help them.
According to stopbullying.gov, between one in four students in the U.S. say they have been bullied. It’s most common in middle school and includes social or verbal bullying. While bullying is in decline, all it takes is one incident to undermine your child’s confidence. It’s important to educate yourself on what to do in case your child gets targeted. Here are helpful tips:
Just Say, “Stop.”
The first thing your child can do when faced with a bully is to say, “Stop.” If someone speaks, touches or treats your kid in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable, he has the right to say “No!” or “Stop!” If it continues, he can walk away from the situation.
“The key is that a comeback shouldn’t be a put-down because that aggravates a bully,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.
Learning to verbalize feelings and take charge of the situation will benefit your child into adulthood. They should never have to feel stuck. Likewise, kids should understand that if someone asks them to stop, they should change their behavior immediately.
If your child has asked the bully to stop and the behavior continues, tell them the best choice is to walk away. Let your kid know that if she has asked the bully to stop and they did not, she should then just walk away and go tell someone they feel safe talking to about the situation. Make sure that you have identified that person together whether it’s a guidance counselor, teacher or buddy.
Walking away is powerful; Borba and other bullying experts say it is never a good idea to start a physical fight. If your child is not comfortable talking to an adult at school or they have reported bullying but don’t feel heard, contact your school directly to come up with a plan to stop any future bullying. By first allowing your child to address the situation, you teach them empowerment.
Use the Buddy System
Often kids who are targeted by bullies are perceived as different by their peers. Bullying often happens with a group of kids targeting a child who is alone. Encourage your child to play with other kids with similar interests. A group of kids are less likely to be targeted.
Laugh it off
It is no surprise that bullies find enjoyment out of picking on others because they get a reaction. Sometimes laughing it off or making it into a joke can stop the bully in his tracks. In some situations, it can turn things around quickly.
Find an Outlet
Kids who feel like they have been bullied at school may begin to feel angry, depressed, or blame themselves. It is important to let your child know that it is not their fault, Borba says.
Help your child find something to use as an outlet to counter their upset feelings: running, drawing, journaling, sports, hanging out with friends, etc. If your child has something they enjoy and are good at, it helps them feel important and boosts their overall happiness.
— Role play “what if” scenarios
— Check-in with your child daily
— Helping your child deal with a bully will help him with confidence and prevent a difficult situation from escalating
— Partner with your child’s school to come up with solutions