By Dr. Jennifer Freed PhD MFT
One of the most significant changes you will notice in your child will be them not openly discussing their days with you and who they are spending their time with.
The best prevention of bullying behavior from either end of the spectrum, aggression or victimization, is the family meal each and every school day in which the parent(s) and children name their thorns (what was hard that day) and roses (what was lovely that day).
Children need consistent communication to and from their parents about life’s inevitable ups and downs so that when truly upsetting things happen, there is already a corridor of communication open for discussing emotional subjects. Authentic communication should be structured into the household rituals as devotedly as house chores or brushing one’s teeth.
Signs of bullying distress
- Social isolation
- Emotional withdrawal
- Missing items or new items that mysteriously show up
- Sudden emotional outbursts unrelated to actual circumstances at home
- Change in physical appearance, grooming and language used
- Hiding content on social media
Parent Guidance Checklist
- You should have your child’s passcode to their social media and let them know you will scan it weekly
- You know the names and parents of your child’s inner circle
- You have other children at your house regularly to know who your child is friends with
- You have family meals regularly without any devices turned on and do the “thorns and roses” exercise
- You check in with your child’s teacher every few months and ask how your child is socializing
- You have a frank discussion with your child about respectful behavior and language and what you consider to be unacceptable behavior
- You have a clear vision for your family values and you model those values much more than you preach them – young people often copy your actions much more than they listen to your words
- If there has been any bullying behavior, you address it immediately and call on all parties involved to have a teachable moment and repair the harm. Young people need to know that adults will not tolerate any manifestation of hate. Bullying behaviors actually hurt all involved; the witnesses, the bystanders, the perpetrator and the victims are wounded by incidences of bullying.
Most importantly, adults need to demonstrate loving and respectful language to each other and their children. Adults need to set examples of the standards and make it much more clear to young people what is expected.