Some people may think that bullying is just a part of growing up. There’s always going to be that mean kid who torments those of us who are different in some way. But the truth is that no one should have to suffer through bullying. Our kids need to know that they can come to us if they are feeling threatened and that we will do something about it.
I write this blog as a mom, not a medical expert, but I believe that talking with our kids is a vital first step in considering how we are going to handle their very personal questions and emotions. Even if our own kids aren’t the bully’s target, they may have heard or witnessed things that make them fearful. Begin by listening to your child. Let him/ her tell their story. Remember that there will probably be emotional pain about the way they or a friend is being treated. Their feelings, fears and emotions need to be validated.
To be effective advocates, parents need to react to the knowledge that their child is a bully’s target in a way that encourages the child to trust them. Projecting displaced anger or throwing out negative judgmental comments will only make them feel more isolated. Asking them why they didn’t stand up to the bully might stop any communication in its tracks! Believe them and support them. Tell them that it is not their fault and that they do not deserve to be bullied. Empower the child by reminding them how special he/ she is, Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Be patient, because children may not be ready to open up to you right away. Talking about the bullying may be very difficult. There could be fear about retaliation from the bully. The child might be feeling insecure, withdrawn, frightened or ashamed. Give them the time they need to share what’s going on.
Parents can educate their child about bullying by providing information at a level that the child can understand. A good site that may be a useful resource is www.stopbullying.gov This site has some good information that can be shared with kids! Parents can also talk to their kids about workable options in dealing with bullying behavior.
For parents who have younger kids or kids with special needs and who suspect that there might be a bullying issue going on, here are some questions that might get conversation started:
· How was the bus ride today?
· Who did you sit next to today at lunch?
· I notice that you seem to be feeling sick a lot and wanting to stay home. Please tell me about that.
· Are kids making fun of you?
· Has anyone touched you in a way that did not feel right?
· Did the child hurt you on purpose?
· Was it done more than once?
· Did they make you feel bad or angry?
· Is the other child (more powerful, bigger, scarier…) than you in some way?
(Adapted from “Your Child: Bully or Victim”, Peter Sheras, Ph.D., 2002)
For older kids, talking about recent events in the news or bullying incidents on TV or in a movie might help lead them into discussion about how they are feeling.
The first step in understanding the emotional, physical or psychological effects bullying is having on our kids is starting a conversation with them and listening to them. All the while reassuring them how much we love and value them as individuals. Praying with them daily will also help empower them with the knowledge that God loves them completely and perfectly as they are– and how very important they are to Him. Everyday, when I drop my kids off at school, I pray for angelic protection to be like a hedge around them. Prayer is an essential part of our role as parents, and knowing that God’s abundant grace is ever-present fills me and my children with the biggest sense of peace.
How do you deal with bullying? Have you had conversations with your children about it? Please share.
Lisa Strnad is a contributing blogger to Whats in the Bible? and JellyTelly several times a month. She is a home schooling mom who works in christian media in the areas of writing, marketing and PR. Follow her on www.talkinglikeagirl.blogspot.com