Three Suggestions for Parent
By Dru Ahlborg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of BRRC
Can you believe it’s almost time to start a new school year? My hope for this time of year is for the necessity of our organization to be less. I hope the magic of summer and sunshine will make people’s interactions kinder. My desire is that schools take the summer and determine the best ways to stop bullying. I sincerely hope children dealing with the traumas of bullying experience some healing and fun over the summer months. Hey, an Executive Director can dream…right?
Our organization, BRRC is a nonprofit dedicated to providing the resources, education and advocacy needed to stop bullying and stem the long-term effects bullying has on its targets. We empower families across Colorado to defend their bullied child and hold the school responsible to stop the bullying. Despite all the hopes I have, we are preparing for a busy school year and are training new advocates this summer. We are here to serve the families of bullied children.
According to Stopbullying.gov, “bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.” According to the 2019 National Bureau of Educational Statistics, nationwide about 22% of students between 12-18 experience bullying. Closer to home, The Cyberbullying Research Center reports that in 2019 in Colorado 65.8% of youth stated they have been bullied in the last 30 days. (That is up almost 15% in three years.) This is a harrowing problem that can create trauma and negative impacts for everyone involved including the bullying target, the adolescent engaging in bullying acts, the bystanders and the family of the bullying target.
As a professional in the trenches of bullying there are three items I would like to instill about bullying as we begin preparing for the school year.
Bullying must be STOPPED. It is not negotiated, and certainly not dealt with using conflict resolution tactics.
For an event to be bullying, there is always an exploitation of an imbalance of power. Asking a target of bullying and the aggressor to shake hands and move on isn’t appropriate. We certainly wouldn’t ask an adult who was assaulted to just move on. The needs of both the children need to be addressed and the aggressor should have a reasonable consequence for their action.
If your child shares with you they are being bullied, drop everything and truly listen.
A child’s “job” is to attend school and to be successful in that endeavor. That can include academic grades, sports, social status and friendships. Failing at one or more of these can be absolutely humiliating, and it can be incredibly challenging for a child to verbalize they are being bullied. Listening is key and asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions will be helpful. Be aware that very often a young person will share just a part of the humiliation they are going through. The information can come out in tiny amounts over time. We advise that parents stay calm and together with their child, come up with steps to work through it together. It is important to let your child know they did nothing wrong and it is not acceptable that they are being bullied.
Upstanders. Become one. Teach and coach your child to become one. Acknowledge those who are an upstander.
The dictionary defines an upstander as “a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.”
Upstanders can save lives. Bullying stops within 20 seconds, 57% of the time when someone acts on behalf of the person being bullied. The act of being an upstander can include intervening during a bullying event and also showing care and support to the bullying target after a bullying event. Reporting bullying as a witness is the act of an upstander. Adults who implement these behaviors and talk to their children about it will help raise children who are willing to take a stand and defend others.
My hope is that you and your family are enjoying the last few days/weeks of summer. If your child experiences bullying and the school isn’t taking it seriously, isn’t attempting to stop it, or is completely ignoring your reporting of it, please feel free to contact us. We can help.
We stop bullying today to start recovery tomorrow.