As a parent, finding out your child has been bullied can be quite painful. Bullying exists in many forms, such as physical (pushing, hitting), verbal (name calling or threats), psychological and emotional (exclusion from activities or rumour spreading), and cyber (any form of bullying online).
When combatting a bully, the first step is knowing when your child is a victim. Usual indicators that a child has been bullied are being afraid to go to school and faking illnesses to get out of it, losing interest in their usual hobbies, a sudden drop in school grades, physical complaints of headaches or stomach aches and appearing sad, out of it, or gloomy.
There’s a good chance your child won’t come up to you and openly tell you they are being bullied. That’s why it’s important to have open and honest conversations about what’s going on in their life. Listen to your child without judgement or blame. Make sure your child is safe and feels the same way. Validate them by letting them know that the bully’s actions are not acceptable and will be dealt with. Bullying is a painful experience, so acknowledge their pain and let them know they are not alone.
Ask gentle questions to find out more about how long the bullying has been happening, the names of those involved and the type of bullying your child has experienced. If there is any evidence of the bullying, whether it be nasty messages or physical bruises, take pictures and document it, as this may be helpful to authorities if the situation were to escalate. Note that any realistic threats to your child’s physical safety are to be taken seriously and reported to authorities. If your child retaliated with their own form of bullying, let them know that this kind of behaviour is not the way to deal with things.
If the bully is another child at school, contact the school and notify them of the situation. Ask what steps they take once an instance of bullying has been reported and how they will prevent the situation from escalating. Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable that the school will handle the situation. If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive, consider stepping back and taking another route. The last thing you want is for the bullying to get worse for your child.
Sometimes, bullying can break the law. If this is the case, contact your local authorities to find out what you can do further. If your child retaliated in a manner that also breaks the law, this may not be the best course to take as the law will be applied to both the bully and the victim. If you do decide to report the incident, document all evidence, and follow instructions previously given to you by authorities.
You should always encourage your child to be an Upstander to prevent others from being bullied. Advise them to help diffuse the situation next time they see someone being bullied. By simply speaking up, they can let the bully know that their actions aren’t acceptable, and they will be reported to an adult. With more Upstanders, less bullies will feel comfortable enough to openly bully other children.