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Bullying is something we all experience at some stage of our lives, from high school to college, and sometimes even as adults in the work place. Sadly, more and more, we are hearing stories about bullying at increasingly younger ages, leaving parents at a loss in terms of how to support their kids and work within the school system to address issues. If you’ve found yourself in this frustrating and disheartening situation, here are some tips for helping your child through the experience.

1.) Listen. If your child tells you about being bullied, listen and offer comfort and support. Children are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed about it.  They may also worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, or angry with them. Listening calmly and attentively can be an important step in helping them face what they are experiencing.

2.) Praise. Praise your child for doing the right thing by sharing with you what they are experiencing since many children don’t take this step. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone and that many people experiencing bullying. If you were bullied as a child, this is a good opportunity to share your story to demonstrate how you coped, overcame the situation.  Point out to your child that the bully is the one who is behaving inappropriately and not your child. Finally, assure and reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about the bullying – together.

3.) Empathize. In many cases children will blame themselves for the bullying, believing if they looked differently or acted differently somehow they wouldn’t be bullied. In other cases, they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told, that the bullying will become even worse. In this case hear them out and try to put yourselves in their position, then try to be a voice of comfort and support.

4.) Understand. The term “bullying” is being used as a catch-all phrase for a wide variety of behavior and situations, therefore you must examine each instance of bullying closely as there is no one-size-fits all approach or solution. What may work in one situation may not be advisable in another. Consider there are many factors that impact the situation, from the ages of the students involved, from the type of bullying behavior, the severity of the situation, to what has already been attempted in terms of resolving the issue.  All of these factors and more will help determine the way forward.

5.) Inform. Talk to someone at school, the principal, the teacher, school guidance counselors, to make sure they are aware of the situation. Your school administrators and teachers are often in a position to monitor the daily interactions between your child and their classmates and are in the best position to  intervene and potentially prevent further problems.

6.) Collaborate.Take it seriously if you hear from you child that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told an adult or if threats of physical harm have been made. In some cases it may be useful to reach out to the parents of the bully to find a solution.  If you decide to take this approach, let school officials, teachers,  counselors reach out first.

The good news is most schools have established anti-bullying programs and policies, but it may take some work for administration to give the situation the proper attention it deserves. Take some time to become acquainted with the laws that govern your child’s school which can help you navigate how best to work with the school to resolve bullying issues. In extreme cases where there are real concerns for your child’s safety, you may have to consider moving beyond the resources available through the school and seek support from legal authorities as well.

Dealing with bullying can crumble a child’s confidence, sense of safety, and overall well-being. To help restore confidence and well-being and to create a positive and secure, educational environment, encourage your children to spend time with friends who have a positive influence, even facilitating play-dates and other interactions if necessary. If you child struggles to make friends, participation in sports and after-school activities and clubs can help lay the foundation for forming meaningful and constructive friendships.

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