Everyone, even young children, can experience bullying. Now that school is back in session, learn what you can do to help your child.
More than half of teenagers believe that bullying is the main problem they see among their peers, according to a survey from Pew Research Center. However, bullying may begin even sooner than the teenage years. More than 30% of elementary school students reported being bullied in school, and 20% of kindergarteners reported frequent bullying.
Bullying occurs at young ages because children are still learning to develop social skills, regulate emotions and solve problems. Some have not learned the difference between bullying and teasing. Teasing can be good-natured among friends and siblings, if both children understand they are joking. Bullying, however, is one-sided and hurtful. It can involve name-calling, hitting, shunning and spreading rumors.
Signs that a child is being bullied include:
• A drop in grades or interest in school
• Avoiding activities they used to enjoy
• Avoiding certain situations, such as asking to skip school or be driven instead of riding the bus
• Feeling, or pretending to be, sick especially before school or social situations
• Losing sleep or having frequent nightmares
• Low self-esteem
• Poor appetite
Stand Up Against Bullying
Take bullying seriously and do not tell children to “tough it out.” Fewer than half of children tell adults when they are being bullied, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So if your child opens up to you about being bullied, listen to him calmly and praise him for talking about it. Some children who are bullied feel like it is their fault. If your child says anything to indicate she believes this, assure her the bully is behaving badly, not her.
Tell a counselor, teacher or principal that your child is being bullied or alert the bully’s parents. If it occurs when you are not present, encourage your child to talk about it with a trusted adult. Also, advise her to walk away from or ignore the bully and stay with friends when the bully is nearby. Finally, help build your child’s self-esteem when he is at home so he can feel confident.
As a parent, there is always something new to teach your child, and each teaching opportunity is a chance to build your child’s self-esteem. Helping your child learn to do things on his own gives him a chance to feel proud and accomplished.
When teaching your child new things, tell him it is OK to make mistakes. Do not let your child criticize himself harshly. Instead, offer a way to reframe what he is saying. Praise his efforts and progress, as well as his attitude, while he is working: “You did a great job practicing, and I could tell you kept going, even when you were frustrated. Good for you!”
Children with high self-esteem may still feel hurt by bullying. However, they will be more likely to feel confident in themselves, and they will also feel loved and supported by you.