Bullying is an unfortunate part of childhood for many kids. Roughly 80% of children report having been bullied at some point, with girls reporting at slightly higher numbers. In this age of ever evolving technology, much of this bullying may take place online, and this can be just as damaging as in person. Luckily, there are ways parents can ease this burden, if only slightly, for their children.
Giving kids the proper tools to help them recognize their worth and stand in the face of unfair treatment provides them a valuable life lesson they can carry with them as they grow into adulthood.
The Value of Safe Spaces and Speaking Up
The most important thing is for children to know is that they will be heard when they speak. More specifically, that you will hear them when they speak. Stress the importance of sharing emotions, and this includes negative emotions. Children who feel they are expected to always put on a brave face and never cry may internalize stress in their life in unhealthy ways. Recognize the value of providing your child a safe space, and let them know they can always speak freely with you and other trusted adults.
Anxiety in children is common, especially when bullying is a factor, but it can often be overcome with love and positivity from those who care for them.
Explaining The Golden Rule
In addition to helping your child navigate a world where they themselves may experience bullying, it is just as crucial to teach them that bullying others is never acceptable. Give your children age-appropriate examples of how words and actions can hurt. Emphasize the importance of your children treating others as they themselves want to be treated.
It is never too early to teach your children to be kind and to expect kindness from others. If they find themselves being mistreated, remind them to be secure in who they are as a person.
Remind them that bullies are often very insecure people who may have been bullied or abused themselves. They may act out due to those insecurities, not because of anything the victim has done to deserve mistreatment.
Understanding Physical Symptoms of Bullying
You may notice physical symptoms of bullying manifest in your child. It is very common for a stress response to negative treatment to present itself in very real ways in the human body. This can be distressing for any parent to observe, but it can be even more confusing for the child who does not understand what they are feeling or why.
In an age-appropriate way, explain to your children that their recurring tummy ache or the headaches they complain of may be tied to the negativity they are experiencing at the hands of a bully. Help them develop positive habits to relieve this physiological stress response so that it does not have such effects on their body.
Getting fresh air, playing a game with a friend or a trusted adult, coloring, or watching a movie that makes them happy can help take their minds off what is bothering them. Be sure to follow up the fun with meaningful conversations with your child, rather than solely relying on pleasant distractions. If the underlying issues are not addressed, the symptoms may not resolve.
In conclusion, experiencing instances of bullying can have a very real and potentially lasting impact on developing hearts and minds. However, having a parent who makes the effort to understand what their child is going through can help mitigate this impact in meaningful ways. In serious cases, a parent may need to consider getting other adults involved, helping a child change schools, or even initiate therapy to deal with their trauma. In any case, there are almost always steps that a parent can take to help a child know they are not alone in facing their problems.