With the recent rise in child suicides related to bullying, parents nationwide are becoming increasingly concerned about their own children falling victim to what is being termed “bullycide.” And many want to know what they can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. The majority of bullying incidents occur during or after school hours and, unfortunately, most go completely unnoticed and unreported by administrators, teachers, and counselors. So how can parents even know if their child has been a victim? And once they find out their son or daughter has been the subject of bullying, what actions can they take to help the child handle the situation emotionally, mentally, and even physically?
Signs to Look For:
• Your child arrives home each day after school with torn clothing and/or is missing his/her books or other personal items.
• Unexplained physical injuries
• Sad, depressed, anxious, or fearful about going to school each day
• Trouble eating, sleeping, and/or regular nightmares
• Trouble making friends and becoming socially active
• Loss of interest in school and/or drop in academic performance
• Walks to and/or from school by a different route each day (to avoid encountering the bully)
• Quiet and withdrawn
• Talks about, contemplates, or attempts suicide (in extreme cases)
Although many of the aforementioned criteria could obviously be signs of other behavioral or personality problems, they are also frequently associated with children suffering from taunts and physical encounters with bullies. As a parent, you can’t afford to let any of these go unnoticed.
What Can You Do?
• Encourage your child to report any encounters with bullies to you (then report them immediately to a school administrator and/or counselor).
• Try to get as many details as possible about the incident: who, what, where, when and even why.
• If bully incidents are occurring on the playground, encourage your child to play on another area, away from kids who may start trouble. Suggest that they play near an adult or teacher who may be supervising their recreation time. Bullies typically won’t pick on or taunt a child who is in plain view of a teacher or other school authority.
• Don’t encourage your child to physically fight back with a bully. This will only make things worse and could lead to future behavioral problems (not to mention more injuries). Instead, tell them to walk or run away and find an adult.
• Keep your own written record of bully incidents your child tells you about (i.e. names, times, locations of the incident-whatever your child may tell you). This will help you better recall the information to share it with school officials the next time you are able to talk to them.
• Never directly confront the bully or family of the bully yourself. Leave any and all disciplinary decisions in the hands of school administrators and teachers.
• Talk through alternatives to fighting with your child. Discuss the benefits of handling a situation without physical violence and the benefits of finding an adult in the midst of an incident.
• Help your child develop good friendships with other students.
These are just a few things parents can do to help handle bully situations. Always be willing to listen attentively to any situation your child may tell you about. Every detail is important when it comes to bully problems.