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Dealing with Bullies

Victims of bullying may take some time to open up to their parents about it. Most children hope that the bullying will go away on its own, or are too ashamed or scared to tell anyone about it. It can be difficult to hear that your child is being bullied at school or in an organization, but when he’s ready to talk about it, there are things you can do to help him:

  • Don’t dismiss what he’s saying. Take away distractions such as the telephone or the T.V. and show your child that you believe him and are taking him seriously.
  • Find out where the bullying is coming from. Talk with your child about why he thinks he’s being picked on. By figuring out what is making him a target for bullying, you can work on strategies to overcome the problem together.
  • Remind him it’s not his fault. Make sure he knows that you don’t think he’s being bullied because of anything he’s done. Don’t criticize your child or offer reasons why he may be being bullied — he needs your support, not more proof of what he perceives as his lack of worth. If you suspect that it’s your child’s lack of confidence that may be making him a target, focus on his positive attributes and things he is able to do well.
  • Remain calm. It’s tempting to want to spring into action immediately to help your child. Don’t do anything unless your child agrees — although if he’s being physically hurt, you may have to do something whether he wants you to or not.
  • Strategize. Create a set of coping strategies that he can use to help his situation. Encourage him to ignore any name-calling — if he’s the type of child who cries easily, try to make him understand that name-calling can’t hurt him if he doesn’t let it.
  • Change your route. If your child believes he can deal with the bully and feel safer on a new route to school, support him and allow him to change it, providing the new route is still safe.
  • Get in touch with the school. Research the school’s anti-bullying policies and contact the principal or a teacher. They should be receptive to your concerns and help you work out a solution. Be clear about your concerns. If your child has named specific classmates, be prepared to mention them. When you have worked out a solution with the school, make sure that you know exactly what steps the school will take to prevent further bullying and who you can speak with in the future, if needed.

This piece was originally published on August 6, 2010

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