Back to School and How to Support Your Child
“Don’t try hard. to fit in, and certainly don’t try so hard to be different …just try hard to be you.” ~Zendaya
Back to school time can bring on many mixed emotions for both students and parents. For many adolescents it can bring excitement, sadness and anger. For parents, the emotions can be quite similar especially if there are concerns about bullying or potential bullying. School should be an environment of learning, acceptance, safety and fun. Unfortunately for many students it can be a place of fear, anxiety and sadness.
As we prepare to send our youth back into the schoolyards and the classrooms there are ideas to keep in mind and discuss with our children about to help them start the school year on a solid footing.
- Be a role model. Our children are watching whether they are toddlers or in high school. They learn from us and often pick up our behaviors. As caregivers we should be mindful of how we act toward others. This includes peers, other parents, friends, family members, co-workers, interactions in public (including online) and our partners and spouses.
- Do not tolerate bullying in your family or in your home. Guide and teach siblings positive ways to manage difficult emotions and to not lash out at one another. If your child has challenging and mean interactions with friends while you are with them, interject and aid in resolving the interaction. If need be, separate the children and speak to the other parent.
- Do not minimize bullying. If your child confides in you about being a bullying target, bullying others or witnessing bullying incidents, take the opportunity to listen with empathy. Do not brush it off. If your child is targeted, take the opportunity to come up with a plan together and let them know they did nothing wrong. If your student is a bystander or engaging in bullying activity educate your child as to how bullying negatively impacts the target and can hinder feelings of self-worth and belonging. Encourage your child to support targets of bullying by not tolerating it, speaking up, reporting it and offering encouragement to the bullying target.
- Encourage your child to rely upon their friends. Talk to your child about enlisting friends to support one another. Children helping others offers the strongest defense against bullying behavior. Discussing and forming a pact can be a strong support system during the school day.
- Encourage your child to tell an adult they are being bullied. Statistics tell us that only 20-30% of bullying targets report their abusers. Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult as quickly as possible.
It is also important to consider internet safety and how to deal with cyberbullying as well. It is an incredibly challenging problem and can happen anywhere, anyplace and at anytime. Cyberbullying spreads quickly and has the same negative effects on all involved as any other type of bullying. It should not be tolerated and be addressed quickly. Some advice to also keep in mind in regards to cyberbullying are:
- Do not punish your child. If your child has been a target of cyberbullying do not threaten to take away their device or cut their online time. Doing this may make them not want to tell you about any bullying that happens in the future.
- If there is online evidence, save it as screenshots. This becomes incredibly helpful if it is necessary to report the event.
- Talk to your child about the experience and take the time to listen. Studies prove that having just one person listen and support a child who has been bullied helps them better handle the event in a healthy way.
- Report the cyberbullying. Most social media platforms have a process for reporting bad behavior. If the cyberbullying involves a classmate, report it to the school. If the bullying involves threats of physical harm, consider reporting it to the police.
- Take quick action. Whether your child is the target, a bystander or the perpetrator of cyberbullying, quick action should be taken. Bullying in any form is never okay. It is an opportunity talk about empathy and the harm caused by bullying. Discuss it with school officials or a counselor to gain additional help and ideas.
Taking the time to partner with our children during this time of transition is key. An open dialogue about new routines and expectations is always a good idea. Stress and anxiety are common. Let your child know you are there to help them succeed and will be available when they feel anxious or need help.
If your child is being bullied and the school isn’t helping, please contact BRRC. We can help.
By Dru Ahlborg
Bullying Recovery Resource Center