No one wants to think of their child being bullied at school or while attending special programs, sports, church, or other activities. The truth is, it’s probably more common that you think. According to a 2017 report by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice, nationwide, about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.
Over the course of your child’s life, there will be a myriad of different reasons to ask if something’s wrong. It’s that parental “sixth sense” which, when underscored by troublesome behavior such as acting out, exhibiting fear, or excessive attachment, cause you to say, “What’s the matter?”
Your child’s typical deadpan response, “Nothing,” does little to quell your concern. So what can you do? Since The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years, it’s possible that your child is the victim of bullying.
How to Get Kids to Talk About Being Bullied
Why Don’t Children Talk About Being Bullied?
Bullying seems like an obvious incident to report; it’s abusive and it’s against the rules. But children don’t always have a broader perspective. Kids who are bullied each and every day can feel along and helpless. They can be too scared to report the bullying, for fear that even their most trusting adults won’t believe them. Children also worry that if the bullies find out that they tattled, the bullying may get even worse.
Encourage Bullied Kids to Help Others
Children tend to respond when they’re put into a leadership position to help someone smaller or younger, according to Stop Bullying Now. If your child doesn’t admit to being bullied, ask him to give his advice to your “friend,” whose child is being bullied. Ask for his help to search kids’ websites about bullying. This will both inform and empower your child.
Websites About Bullying
While researching websites about bullying, read about how bullies intimidate and harass their prey. The website, StopBullying.gov talks about the tactics that bullies use to keep their victims quiet, which include telling them the bullying will get worse if they tell.
The website encourages both witnesses to harassment and victims to speak out and advises them to tell any adult they feel comfortable with, including parents, a teacher, school counselor, school nurse, or coach. “Even if it’s a little scary for you to tell an adult about bullying that you see, it’s the right thing to do. It’s not tattling – you’re helping someone out.” They advise kids to keep telling adults until someone responds.
The website Kids Health also encourages kids to tell their teachers about being bullied. Teachers are a good resource, since they are likely to report the behavior back to the bully’s parents. Other helpful sections of Kids Health include what to say to a bully to get him to stop and what motivates a bully.
Draw From Your Own Childhood Experience
Reconstruct your own experiences, either being bullied or witnessing bullying. Where did the bullying take place and who was targeted? With an assumption that some of the patterns could be repeated, talk to your child about your “friend’s” bullied child. Ask your child if he’s seen any other kids bully or be bullied, and if so, where? Did any students help? Inquire if anyone told a teacher and how did the teacher respond?
Be a Judgment-Free Zone
As the parent, you are there to help encourage your kids to work through problems in life. Offer a listening ear. Offer advice. Offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Be flexible with meeting your child where they are at and don’t get overly emotional yourself or try to fight their battles for them right off the bat. Find ways that your child could make changes and step in if needed, of course.
You can help your child open up about being bullied by asking for his help, researching kids’ websites about bullying on behalf of your “friend,” and filling your child’s teacher, coach, or activity leader in on your strategy. By unveiling the secrets behind the bully’s motivation and tactics, your child will less intimidated and more likely to come forward with his own experience.