October marks National Bullying Month and as it comes to a close, we as parents can reflect on how bullying may be effecting our own homes. That could mean a few things: Am I the parent of a child being bullied? Is my child bullying? Has bullying at my child’s school begun to negatively affect him/her?
While parents aren’t able to solely navigate the bullying landscapes in their communities, there are certain steps they can take to ensure how their children weather the storm.
Five signs your child is being bullied or may be bullying and how to address it at home:
1. Get personal. It’s important to talk about friends, upcoming social outings that are on the calendar, who he/she might want to have over next weekend. Try to figure out if their circle of friends has changed. Healthy social relationships are easy for children to talk about. When a child withdraws or changes patterns drastically, we have to wonder why.
2. Observe closely. Physical signs are the easiest to spot. If your child comes home with ripped clothing or scratches, you’ll know something is up. And tune into hunger as well in case he’s too nervous to eat or someone is taking the good stuff from his lunch. Nightmares and “morning fevers” (trying to get out of going to school) are also big clues.
3. Gauge thoughts. Create situations through play or family discussions when you talk about bullying. Do they defend the offender or lobby for the victim? Do they clam up and avoid eye contact? A strong reaction one way or the other could suggest something deeper is happening, and show you that this is not the first time this kind of thing has been encountered by your child.
4. Keep probing. Once you start feeling your child might be bullied or bullying, keep asking questions. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, ask again…and again. And check in with others about your child’s behavior. A best friend’s parent, a sibling at the school, the teacher. All of these people can provide some insight on how your child is acting at school.
5. Stay connected. There’s a fine line between snooping and being cautiously involved in your child’s social media behaviors. First, know all of their pages, handles, etc. It’s very easy for a child to create multiple pages — one under their name you gave them that feature PG content and those cryptically named pages that feature who knows what. Collect all phones at night. Their texts, incoming Snaps and social accounts are fair game.