We’ve all seen movies where kids are teased or harmed by the bully at school, but it’s hard to fully understand what it’s like until you’ve been through it yourself — or your child comes home and tells you about it.
But one thing’s for sure: bullying is no joke, and it’s not something to ignore. Below, we’ll look at some of the top expert recommendations for what to do if your child is being bullied at school.
Watch for Warning Signs of Bullying
First, it’s helpful to know the common signs of bullying in schools or within friend groups. Children won’t always be upfront about what they’re experiencing, and they might try to hide it.
Signs of bullying can include:
- Damaged or lost clothes or personal items
- Lack of appetite, seeming extra hungry, or binge eating
- Injuries that the child has no explanation for
- Poorer grades or loss of interest in school
- Frequent complaints of feeling sick or having a headache (which can be an attempt to avoid going to school)
- Spending less time with friends or in social settings
- Nightmares or other trouble sleeping
- Running away from home
- Signs of self-harm or talk of suicide
If your child has exhibited any of these signs, talk to them. Let them know that nothing is their fault and that they can tell you anything.
And that brings us to the next tip.
Listen Openly and Without Judgment
Kids experiencing bullying might be afraid to talk about it, so listen carefully and show that you are open and want to help. Do not voice any blame for the situation and avoid using the word “bullying” until you have the facts.
If you can, speak to both children and adults who might have information on the situation after talking to your child. Getting the details can also help if you need to get officials involved. You might also consider getting help from a therapist or school counselor.
Practice Correct Responses with Your Child
Role-playing and practicing dialogue to use with a bully can help kids better handle future situations. Suggested responses from the website Parents include:
- “That wasn’t nice.”
- “Leave me alone.”
- “Yeah, whatever.”
- “Back off.”
Practice firm and brief comebacks with your child, and make sure they aren’t put-downs, which can spur a bully on. Roleplay as the bully so that your kid can try out different responses. The key is to maintain a strong, confident voice so that the bully doesn’t get what they want.
Create a Plan of Action
Ask your child what they need from you to feel better. Keep routine changes to a minimum, as this can make the situation feel more volatile or the bullied kid feel singled out.
Besides talking about how the child can respond at school, you might request seating changes for all kids, or a class change that removes your child from the bully. Just make sure that any big switch is something your child wants.
Next, create a plan for protecting your kid. You might work with other parents, the school, or an organization for helpful ideas. According to Stop Bullying, school safety committees or engaging school administrators can help bring parents together to prevent bullying at school. Open communication is essential and can help protect other children from the same issues.
Know What NOT to Do
If your child is experiencing bullying, here are some things to avoid:
- Don’t blame the child for the bullying, even if they might have provoked it in some way.
- Don’t advise the child to “just ignore” the bullying. It needs to be addressed.
- Don’t tell the child to fight back against the bully. Physical fights can lead to serious injury or school suspensions.
- In most cases, don’t call the bully’s parent(s) directly.
If the bullying gets really bad, contacting the child’s parent(s) can be the right choice. However, it’s generally best to speak with your child first and then the school. School officials can often help you address bullying issues correctly between parents.
The Bottom Line
Bullying is never okay. Thankfully, there are ways to address it. If your child is being bullied — or you suspect bullying — take these actions to get them help and create a more favorable environment for them as they grow up.