The beginning of a new school year presents to children many exciting possibilities, social interaction with old friends, the potential to make new friends, and many fun and inspiring learning opportunities. The beginning of a new school year, however, provides opportunities for bullies to make life difficult and miserable for kids, as well. What should parents do if they have determined that their children are being harassed or bullied at school? How can parents know when to step in to stop the bullying?
Dr. Meghan Salyers, assistant professor at the University of North Dakota’s College of Education and Human Development, suggests that parents and children should embark upon a new school year with a positive attitude and expect the best from children, teachers, and the administration. However, she recommends that they plan ahead to prepare for the worst, and to do so, if possible, without their children knowing it. They should think ahead and make an action plan for what they would do if their children should become targets of bullies. Here are some strategies parents can consider for their action plan:
· Parents first should check with the school to determine what their bullying policy is. They should also determine that, if bullying occurs in the school, what is the typical kind of bullying that takes place.
· Parents must recognize that they can’t prevent all bullying that may happen at the school and, therefore, should choose their battles wisely.
· Parents who think their children might be targeted by bullies should talk to their children about what could happen. They then should discuss with their children some ways to handle the harassment or bullying. My anti-bullying book, The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale, though it is a fictional story about bullying, it also offers researched strategies to help children deal with bullies if they are targeted.
· The first instance of bullying, unless it’s violent, parents might want just to let it go.
· If the bullying persists and if parents have assessed that the harassment is something that their children cannot handle alone, then it’s time to step in to help. Parents should provide their children with both physical and emotional strategies to handle the problem. They should brainstorm with their children about some statements that children can say to their bullies to stave off a potentially threatening situation. My book The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale, provides child readers of the book with some very effective things that they can say to their bullies that may make them back off and leave them alone.
· Parents, if at all possible, should not be tattletales. This could possibly be a negative threat to their children’s social acceptance in school. However, if the empowerment strategies with which parents have armed their children for protection from bullies don’t work, then parents should find out where the bullying is occurring. Then they should talk first to the teacher and the guidance counselor. Parents might want to encourage the guidance counselor to work with the teacher to help address the problem. The final step in the hierarchy would be informing the principal, if necessary. Never talk to the teacher, counselor, or the principal about the problem in front of any other children though. That is imperative as this, too, could threaten their children’s social acceptance and worsen the problem.
· Finally, parents should stay informed about if and how the problem is being addressed. Parents should keep open lines of communication with their children. Encourage them to talk about how their day went without appearing to be giving them the third degree.
Parents needing strategies with which to empower their children in the event of potential bullying can purchase The Bully and The Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale, in both paperback and eBook formats through Amazon and Barnes &Noble.
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