When you send your child to school, you hope that they will come back home excited to tell you about the things they’ve learned and the fun they’ve had with their friends. Any parent would hate to hear that their child is being mistreated or bullied. Unfortunately, bullying is a seemingly never-ending issue, but there are ways in which you as a parent can help tackle the issue by speaking to your children and ensuring that they feel comfortable to speak openly to you or to their school teachers.
How can you open communication channels with your children?
-Look for signs of bullying. If your child is struggling at school, they will most likely display subtle signs. From withdrawn behaviour to perhaps getting home later than usual or even seeming very reluctant to go to school each day. Of course, you don’t have to assume the worst, but if you do think something is bothering your child, then you can decide how to proceed and get them talking to you.
-Change up the questions you ask. For example, instead of asking “How was your day?”, ask them questions like, “Who do you eat with at lunch?” opening up the chance for conversation rather than a one-word answer like, “Ok.” Be careful not to interrogate.
-Create conversation opportunities. Give your child some one-on-one time, a meal out, a trip to the park or other activities will give your child a chance to talk to you if something is going on.
-If you know they are being bullied, offer them alternative ways to talk to you. Sometimes talking can be hard, especially in with sensitive subjects like bullying. Try getting them to write a letter or draw a picture of how they are feeling and what has been going on.
-Make sure you listen. When you finally get them talking, be sure to let them do so. Interrupting them could do more harm than good and stop them from talking.
Five keys to approaching your child’s school about bullying
-Check the school’s anti-bullying policy. Most schools will already have a policy in place to protect children from bullying, make sure you are aware of the details and if you know your child has already reported the bullying, check if the policy has been put into action.
-Request a face to face meeting. Conversations over the phone aren’t the best format for discussing sensitive topics like bullying, so arranging an in-person meeting will be most effective.
-Avoid making accusations. The school may not be aware of the bullying, and if that is the case accusing them of not dealing with the problem will only cause unnecessary confrontation.
-Make sure you have as much information as possible. Try and get your child to give you as many details as possible so that you can pass this on to the teacher, including dates, times, names and more.
-Escalate the complaint if you do not feel it is being dealt with. Do not be afraid to approach the head teacher, or upper management if the bullying continues without appropriate action being taken.
Tackling the topic of bullying
Even if your child has not been involved in any issues with bullying, it’s important that you discuss the topic with them and address both sides. From why it is always wrong to mistreat a fellow student, to why it is key that they feel they can speak to an adult if they feel victimised at any time.
No parent wants wants to hear that their child is behaving badly towards a fellow pupil, but sadly this may come to be the case. In order to prevent this, parents should emphasise that any kind of bullying behaviour is simply unacceptable; perhaps you may find that getting your child to engage creatively in a fun discussion could help them understand the topic of bullying a little better.
Using any art supplies you may have at home (colored pens and pencils, paint or crayons), ask your child to write down or draw what they think bullying is, why they think bullies behave the way they do, how the child being bullied might feel and how they think the problem can be solved. In this way your child can consider both sides and gain a better understanding. All this creativity may become messy, so just in case, see here for how to remove pen stains from clothes.
If ever you are concerned or find out that your child is being mistreated at school, or is mistreating someone else, you might want to again use creative means to understanding the issues your child may be facing. Letter writing could be one effective way for your child to communicate their feelings. Using these creative methods of communication, you can avoid direct confrontation that might intimidate your child further, and allow them to open up more naturally in a non-judgemental setting.
Along with these tips and an activity idea for engaging in a conversation about bullying, you will hopefully prevent and/or deal with any such instances in an appropriate and effective manner.