Posted: Oct 14, 2013 8:00 AM
 
Kids bully for a variety of reasons, and lately it seems that no one is safe from bullying. It can begin as early as preschool and continue right into adulthood. It's important to talk openly and honestly with kids and give them the tools they need to avoid and cope with bullying.

Unless you've actually experienced bullying, it can be difficult to understand how truly devastating it can be. Bullying leaves kids feeling frightened, angry, alone and sometimes even anxious and/or depressed. With incidents of bullying making the news more often these days, it's important to understand what bullying really is and how to help your kids cope.

Bullying is defined as repeated aggressive behavior that can be verbal, physical or relational in nature. It can happen face to face or it can happen behind the scenes, as is the case with cyberbullying.

Children who are bullied can face lasting consequences. They are likely to suffer from poor school performance, struggle with low self-esteem, suffer from anxiety and/or depression and are at risk for turning to violence to cope with bullying. They are also at risk for turning around and bullying others.

It's crucial to keep an open dialogue with school-age children about bullying, whether or not your child has experienced it. When we provide information and tools to cope, as well as tools to help others, we teach children that bullying is serious business and will not be tolerated.

Kids don't always come running home to tell the tale every time they experience an incidence of bullying. They might feel embarrassed or worry that their concerns will not be taken seriously. It's crucial to keep an open dialogue with school-age children about bullying, whether or not your child has experienced it. When we provide information and tools to cope, as well as tools to help others, we teach children that bullying is serious business and will not be tolerated.

Given that kids sometimes internalize their feelings when being bullied, it's important to know the symptoms of bullying:

  • Frequent physical complaints
  • School refusal
  • Worried, angry and/or depressed mood
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawal from friends or social activities
  • Declining school performance

It can be hard to start a conversation about bullying, and some kids shut down when they feel pressured to talk, but frequent conversations will help your children feel comfortable with the topic and learn what to do if they do encounter bullying.


^
Get help

Kids often feel very frightened when they are being bullied, and sometimes they fear that asking for help will result in further bullying. It's important to help kids identify a trusted adult at school so that they have somewhere to turn if they are being bullied during the school day. It's also important to identify other trusted adults in their lives. They might not want to talk to you about it, but an aunt, uncle or close friend can also provide an outlet for your child. The more they talk and verbalize their feelings, the better they will cope overall.


^
Mobilize support

Encourage your child to spend free time with other kids so that she can experience positive peer relationships outside of school.

Kids who have multiple peer groups have more resources when it comes to coping with bullying. When it's time to choose extracurricular activities for your kids, consider encouraging them to join teams and enroll in classes that will increase their peer network by exposing them to a new groups of kids.

It's also important to rely on that diverse peer group when bullying occurs. Encourage your child to spend free time with other kids so that she can experience positive peer relationships outside of school. It's helpful to teach kids that there is always someone to turn to, and that they are not alone.


^
Speak up

Teaching assertiveness skills plays a vital role in guarding your kids against bullying. More often than not, kids are taught to listen first and be respectful. But kids can be respectful while advocating for their own needs and talking back to a bully. Role play can be very helpful when it comes to practicing assertiveness skills. Practice various scenarios that your child has either experienced or witnessed and come up with a list of statements to say in response. A calm demeanor combined with a powerful statement can shut a bully down.


^
Help a friend

When kids stand up for one another, bullies are more likely to stand down.

Safety in numbers works when it comes to confronting a bully. Teach your child to stand up for peers when bullying occurs at school by making statements such as, "That's not right. Leave her alone" or "This isn't funny. We're leaving." When kids stand up for one another, bullies are more likely to stand down.


^
Manage anger

Bullying can ignite anger in children, and for good reason. Being tormented day after day is emotionally exhausting. Teach your child to cope with his own feelings of anger. A journal is a useful tool for older kids when it comes to letting out internalized anger.

Many kids are better able to talk and verbalize feelings when engaged in a physical activity. Get out the basketball and talk while shooting hoops or head to the nearest soccer field for a while. Consider teaching relaxation breathing or encouraging your kids to ask for a break from class when anger bubbles up during the school day.

More on bullying

How to protect tweens from online bullying
Online safety for tweens and teens
Tips for empowering girls

Topics: