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School Bullying: Tips Every Parent Should Know

School Bullying: Tips Every Parent Should Know

For the past eight years, I’ve been traveling the nation’s schools, sharing my message with thousands of students, teachers, and parents that it’s not just joking around, that when kids tease and reject one another, they are damaging each other for life. I know firsthand because from fifth grade through the end of high school I was tormented by my peers, as so many other kids are today, simply for being “different.”

You would think after speaking at so many schools, they would all seem alike to me. Truthfully, some do. And then, there are those that stand out as remarkable examples of what can be done in the fight against bullying when the adults in the school are courageous and unrelenting in their efforts. The principals at these schools are open and honest with faculty and students, encourage the same healthy communication in return, and are dedicated not only to intervention, but consistent follow-up, something still sadly lacking in too many educational environments.

Schools are stepping up to the plate, but no educator can or should replace the role of parent. If we’re to win this war on school bullying, I urge each and every parent reading this column to take stock at home. Is your child a possible victim of bullying? Or are they themselves a bully? When the lights are turned off at night, is your child sleeping, or are they lying awake in the dark, dreading school the next day because they know they will face hurt and rejection the moment they walk through those big glass doors? Do you know the names of the students your child admires, and those they don’t and why? Is your child happy or simply putting on a happy face for you?

Schools reach out to me for solutions to these questions every day. Now I am reaching out to all of you who are parents:

  • Pay attention to your child’s mood. Don’t just relegate grumpiness to back to school blues; it could be fear masquerading as irritability.
  • It’s the beginning of the school year. Get involved now before problems start, not after they’ve begun.
  • Establish a rapport with your child’s guidance counselor.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your child specific questions, and learn to listen patiently and without judgment.
  • Get to know the parents of your child’s friends and establish an open line of communication and support.
  • Encourage your child to embrace the new students at school. It’s an easy way to make new friends.

As parents, we are often overwhelmed by the responsibilities of daily life. Sometimes we are tired and irritable when we get home from work, and the thought of going one more place, doing one more thing is just too much. Let me just say this. Our own emotions, and most especially, logistics, should never get in the way of being present to, and helping our children.

I’m often asked what my own mom and dad did during my lonely school years that helped. It was something so remarkably simple, but it saved my life, and it could save your child’s life too. 

For most bullied students, whether it’s the child who’s overtly abused or the one who’s ignored and excluded day after day, it’s the relentless loneliness that is often hardest to bear. While all the other kids from school are hanging out together, going to parties and having fun, you’re sitting at home, aching to be a part of it, waiting for invitations that never come. I remember those dark moments well, and if your child is experiencing a similar sense of isolation, you need to understand that every child needs friends and a social life, and this is doubly true for bullied kids. If school doesn’t yield this companionship, seek an interim social life for your child, somewhere he or she can participate with other peers in an activity they enjoy.

Believe it or not, local park districts and libraries are wonderful outlets and can be a lifeline for lonely teens. Reach out to the park district and local library the nearest next town over from where you live that doesn’t feed into your child’s school, and ask them to email or fax you their list of organized activities for kids. They often will have everything from soccer and cheerleading, to dance, computer clubs, and Reader’s Theater, among other options that your child can participate in. My mom enrolled me in a youth community theater program where I finally found other kids my own age that I fit in with.

It’s vital, however, that you go one town over, because if a child is being bullied at school and engages in a park district activity with those same classmates, it defeats the purpose, which is to provide the experience of a fresh start with new faces. You can achieve two objectives by enrolling your child in a park district or library activity: on the days school feels especially lonely, your child has something to look forward to; additionally, this new social outlet will likely boost his confidence, and the more confident he is, the less of a target he will be at school. This will also buy you the necessary time to address any bullying issues with the school.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is that they become so immersed in trying to deal with the school once they discover there’s a problem, which they forget to tend to their bleeding child first. And make no mistake. The bullied child is bleeding, but they’re bleeding in the form of loneliness. You can stop that bleeding by finding your child a source for friendship, but you must act swiftly, definitively, and follow up. Don’t just print out the brochures from the park district and leave them on a table. Show them to your child, choose an activity together, then pick up the phone, and make it happen.

© 2010 Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me ? One Woman’s Inspirational Story


 

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  • MadHatter By MadHatter
    01.19.11  

    this is a pretty good article. i was once bullied when i was in Junior High School, which might explain why i am so closed off and not too trusting of people now because of what i endured. Parents should pay attention to their child because you never know what you miss until you lose them. also, i always wondered if the parents of those kids who bullied others, if they were doing so out of wanting attention because their parents don't give them any. if i ever found out that my kid was a bully, i would be pretty upset, because I would never want another child to have to go through what i went through.

  • nenners By nenners
    01.23.11  

    This is great! every parent should read this and be aware. My boyfriend has been a middle school teacher for 10 years and sees it everyday.

  • PhoebePrince By PhoebePrince
    01.30.11  

    I'm a high schooler and i grew up going to DoD schools which are school that are on miltiary bases overseas, and I have to say one thing. Well first off, this is a good article but i'm a big girl I always have been and I once tried to tell a teacher I was getting picked on because that what adults tell you to do is tell an adult when your getting bullied, she didnt believe me she said i needed proof and to clear it up I was only in the 4th grade. Then I went and told my parents and they just told me to get through it. Next thing I know i'm in 6th grade with scars down my arm, i'm sixteen now and happy with myself, but I told people but they didnt listen. So being in school in this time period, all i have to say is that some kids do try to tell people, but those people just dont care.

  • katiebug1998 By katiebug1998
    01.30.11  

    My daughter was bullied this year for a short while at the beginning of middle school. The bully is one of those kids where the system either failed her or they feel there is nothing they can do for her. I spoke with the principal and even though a child is bullied under a no bully policy unless there is physical harm they usually cant do much and if they do it's a simple suspension. I notified the local police to routinely check the bus stop where it had been happening and they knew this child by name and basically said that she has a troubled home and she feels she can get away with whatever she wants. There wasn't much they could do except if it went too far they I could file charges. I feel there should be a better way to nip this without dragging the children into the limelight. I feel this no bully policy needs to be looked at again! As a parent you almost feel helpless to protect your kids from other kids which is craziness.

  • katiebug1998 By katiebug1998
    01.30.11  

    Because why should the system wait til there is physical harm to take action? These are our babies!

  • daisypeanut By daisypeanut
    02.01.11  

    My oldest daughter was bullied in middle school when they asked the girls why they bullied her the girls would not have an excuse except " they just don't like her."My middle daughter is being bullied in middle school now. Our state has a safe hotline that you can call and I called it. However even though it is suppose to be anonymous they obviously know who calls. These girls did get swats but as soon as they think it's safe they will start all over again.

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