It’s a sad truth for parents in all societies today: bullies exist. Whether your child is the victim or the attacker, it can be difficult to broach the topic in a positive way without demoralizing those involved. Social media has made lashing out at others as simple as clicking a mouse, with little repercussion. Bullying has been linked with an increased suicide rate, making it the third-leading cause of death in young people. Find out how to read between the lines and confront your children about bullying without adding to the problem!
Bullying: It’s not just on playgrounds anymore
Navigating childhood in the digital age is hard. Children grow up with their lives recorded and displayed online for all to see. As they grow older, children want access to everything, and can check in on their social lives in an instant. One mistake can cause an avalanche of negativity, and without the social development to handle it gracefully, children live in fear of being exposed and embarrassed. Many resort to bullying in order to gain power over these fears. Belittling others is a way for them to place themselves higher in the pecking order.
Signs your child is being bullied
Parents must learn to recognize the following signs of bullying:
- Unexplained injuries
- Often feeling unwell or faking illness
- Lost or damaged belongings
- Binge eating or skipping meals
- Skipping school
- Falling grades
- Avoiding social situations, loss of friends
- Suicidal thoughts, threats, or attempts
What to do if you suspect your child has been bullied
Broaching the topic of bullying can be uncomfortable for children, as they may already feel isolated, out of control, ashamed, or fear repercussion. However, if ANY of these signs is present, it is important to have an open dialog with your child. Whether they have been bullied or not, make it clear that you will take their thoughts and fears seriously. Develop a strategy to help them feel in control without resorting to bullying themselves, should the situation occur again. Find out what would make them feel safe. Reach out to school authority, and avoid contacting the other child’s parents, as this may make the matter more complicated for your child.
When your child is the bully
Be aware of the following warning signs:
- Aggressive behavior, especially towards authority figures
- Hot-tempered, easily frustrated
- Likes violence
- Must be in control at all times
- Talks his/her way out of difficult situations
- Often pushes boundaries, breaks rules
If you fear your child may be a bully, have an open conversation with your child. Whether you believe their behavior was justified or not, explain to them that they have hurt others and must change their behavior. Ensure them that you love them, regardless, and that you respect the authority of their teachers and principal. Be sure to follow up with these authority figures to let them know that they have your cooperation.
Therapy to address the reason for bullying may be helpful. By realizing the underlying issue, your child may stop bullying entirely. It also instills in your child that this behavior will not be ignored or tolerated in society, and allow your child to create coping mechanisms when tempted to lash out.
Remember that as a parent, you have the final say. Lead by an example of love, tolerance, and kindness. If your child has been the victim of bullying, or has been the bully themselves, show them compassion, patience, and love.