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For many of today’s children, one of the toughest daily challenges they face comes in the form of bullying. Statistics suggest that as many as half of all children are forced to deal with this issue at some point in their childhood or adolescent years. As parents, it can often be difficult to tell whether or not our kids have become the victims of such acts. Therefore, it is our duty to take an active role in discussing these issues with them and to maintain open and honest communication, so that our kids can feel safe bringing up this oftentimes sensitive and embarrassing subject.
The first step that parents need to take is to learn the telltale signs of bullying. Bullying exists today in three basic forms: physical abuse, verbal insults, and cyber-bulling. While some of these symptoms are more obvious like bruises or missing/torn articles of clothing, others can be more subtle and require a closer eye to spot, like decreased school performance or increased frequency of stomachaches and other physical complaints. Thankfully, the Internet has several free resources available for parents, such as the Stop Bullying and the Kids Health websites.
If you suspect your child is a victim of bullying, and once you think you’ve identified the specific kind(s) of abuse he/she is dealing with, the next step is to work to establish a dialogue with your child, where he/she feels safe opening up to you about the problem. Parents need to do what they can to ask questions that promote open sharing without the fear of any sort of judgment or reprisal. For kids, bringing it up may be one of the hardest things for them to do, so if they do find the strength to engage you, be careful not to shut them down by the way you respond to the news. Many times, failing to keep our own emotions in check can lead to our children second guessing the idea to share with us, and they will, instead, shut down.
Parents may be tempted to respond brashly and tell their children to fight back, but such advice typically backfires, leading only to escalation and more damaging consequences. It is important to assure children that the bully is the one misbehaving, and that his or her decision to do so is not a reflection on them. Parents should always recommend non-violent countermeasures, whether it be simply telling the child to turn and walk away from the situation or to make the issue known to a school faculty member. A direct exchange between both children and parents may ultimately be necessary, but it is always best to do it with a mediator present, such as the child’s teacher or guidance counselor.
Above all, parents must remember that the solutions to bullying start at home. Parents should make sure they are cultivating an atmosphere that lets their kids know that they always want them to discuss any potential problems they are having. Parents must also do their part to set positive examples of how they resolve disputes with others. Let your children know that they can share these concerns with you, and that you will help by taking quick and appropriate action to resolve the matter as effectively and as harmlessly as possible.