Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bullying for Parents: What You Can Do (Part II)

As the US Department of Education states, "Parents play critical roles in addressing and preventing bullying." Their concern, influence and responsibility are unparalleled. Once parents are fully aware of the bullying problem, the next step is action. Fortunately, excellent advice is easily accessible, and plentiful resources are available online for parents.

Some anti-bullying initiatives have been inspired by recent films. For example, the BULLY Project, a campaign extending from the movie BULLY, offers helpful tips for parents:
  • Parents are encouraged to teach their children about cyberbullying and encourage them to be positive witnesses to bullying. 
  • Children should hear the consistent message at home and at school that bullying is not a normal part of childhood. 
  • Parents need to share with other parents what they know about the prevalence of bullying in schools. 
  • When parents learn their child is being bullied, doing the bullying, or witnessing bullying, and they are not sure what to do, they should ask for help. In addition to the school resources, the medical community, mental health professionals, and other community resources are available to assist. 
The National PTA's program Connect for Respect (C4R) unites parents, students, and schools in efforts against bullying. The first step of C4R is creating a team of students, parents, and educators. This team will assess the culture/climate of the school community, target areas of concern based on the results, and move toward strengthening a positive and supportive culture where bullying cannot thrive.

Stan Davis, founder of the Stop Bullying Now, with Charisse Nixon, Professor at Penn State Behrend, compiled their experience with the voices of 13.000 students in Youth Voice Project: Student Insight into Bullying and Peer Mistreatment. They provide valuable advice for parents who believe their child is being bullied or mistreated. The first important step is to assess the severity of the mistreatment.

  1. If the behavior is mild and has little impact on the well-being of the child, parents should advise their child to ignore the behavior, stay away from the person mistreating them, and/or ask the person to stop.
  2. If the behavior continues or is moderately severe, parents should begin documenting the mistreatment with dates and other details. They should brainstorm together possible solutions after identifying the strategies the child has used to that point. Parents may then approach the school, making contact with the teacher first and then the principal. The meetings should be focused on the documented mistreatment and existing school policy/response to bullying.
  3. If the behavior is severe, parents may need to approach officials with documentation of the events and the impact as a first step of action. They should work with school officials in matters of school-based bullying and outside officials, perhaps law enforcement, with bullying that occurs in the community. If the child continues to show signs of trauma, including sleeplessness and anxiety, a physician or mental health professional will be of great assistance.
One of the most important pieces of advice for parents and a most challenging one to achieve is to remain calm. Being calm when talking to school and outside officials will allow the problem and the details surrounding it to be presented in a non-threatening manner. Staying calm when talking with your child about the incident will help to draw out the facts necessary to address the problem. 

Most importantly, remaining calm will help to quiet the upset child. By modeling this, the parent is also helping the child build resilience and inner strength, a positive outcome from a traumatic situation.

When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos.   ~L.R. Knost