Bullying – What to Do if it Happens to Your Child

With school back in full swing, routines are created and friendships are forming. For most kids, homework aside, school is a fun place where they can learn and spend time with their friends. For others, school is a place they dread due to the threat of bullying. Bullying has become a heavily debated topic over the years, and with the advances of technology and social media, bullying doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, a time to encourage schools, communities, and organizations to work together to stop bullying by increasing awareness.

Stopbullying.com defines bullying as repeated, “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived [imbalance of power].” There are multiple forms of bullying; verbal, social, cyber, and physical. Verbal bullying includes written or spoken attacks such as name-calling, teasing, threats, or inappropriate comments. Social bullying involves intentional relationship harm such as purposely leaving someone out, spreading rumors, and telling people to not associate with another. Cyberbullying uses online platforms to threaten, embarrass, or harm someone. Physical bullying involves injuring someone by hitting, kicking, pushing, etc.

Unfortunately, some bullies may see an adoptive child as an easier target for comments and harassment. As a parent, to know your child is being bullied is devastating; you are their strongest advocate and protector, and not being able to help can be frustrating. As difficult as this may be, there are tips to help combat bullying and tips to help address the topic with your child.

Look for Warning Signs
If you feel your child is being bullied, look for some of the warning signs such as trouble sleeping, hesitancy to go to school, withdrawal from daily activities, loss or lack of friends, change in behavior, etc. If you notice these things happening, talk to your child; see if they feel the same way or if they have concerns. Bring the topic up in a causal way, “I saw a story in the news about bullying in schools; does this happen at your school?” If they say yes, take this time to ask questions. Is it happening to them? Is it happening to their friends? How do they respond when it happens?

If your child has been bullied, come up with a list of responses for them if faced with it again. The responses should be simple, effective, but not antagonistic. The goal is to safely deescalate the situation. Some phrases to work on could be, “leave me alone,” “stop, this isn’t funny,” or just a simple “stop” or “that’s enough!” If the bully’s insults are specific to your child’s adoption, consider responses that are specific to that. If your child is uncomfortable discussing their adoption a simple “that’s none of your business” may suffice. The most important thing is to walk away after the statement is made. Sticking around can lead to a rebuttal from the bully and an increased chance for confrontation. If your child is struggling to respond to questions about their adoption Right Turn® offers a training titled W.I.S.E. Up!SM,  which helps adopted children address questions and comments about their adoption.

Role-play bullying scenarios with your child. Work on properly handling the situation. Use the phrases you have come up with and practice saying them in a strong, assertive voice. One of the most important things to work on is just simply walking away. Bullies thrive on the power and control they think their words and actions have on an individual. Walking away without acknowledging them removes that power and shows them their words and actions mean nothing. This may be hard at first, but sometimes not responding at all is the best, most effective response.

Some other things to work on are encouraging the buddy system. If possible, encourage your child to walk with a friend in between classes, at lunch, and recess. Having a friend(s) by their side makes them less of a target, and it is easier to ignore comments being made. The avoidance method is also a good one to practice. If your child knows where the bully will be at certain times, have your child avoid those areas. Also, have your child tell the teacher. Having a teacher or adult aware of the situation may allow them to intervene before another incident occurs, and it makes the adults aware of the bullying as well.

Be Digitally Aware
 A new form of bullying, cyberbullying is one that many parents are unfamiliar with as they grew up without cell phones and social media. However, for children today, this is an all too common form of bullying, and it does not stop when school is out for the day. Many times it is done anonymously and can have longer-lasting effects as social media can reach thousands of people. If your child has experienced cyberbullying, there are many steps you, as a parent, can take. Report it; most online platforms have ways to flag the post so it is taken down. Inform the school; many schools have online cyberbullying policies that can help. Block the bully from seeing and having access to your child’s social media pages. Take an active role in your child’s online presence, know who their online friends are, know what social media accounts they have as many teens create multiple social media pages, one for parents to see and one for their friends to see. Limit their use of technology and the amount of time they are allowed online. Learn about online safety and discuss those safety measures with your child.

Be Proactive
While discussing the issues above with your child is important, it is also important as the parent to know what to do when your child is being bullied. If the bullying does not stop, it may be time to involve school officials. Schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher, school counselor, and principal.  Ask them for constructive input, create a plan, and implement it. Take notes during this meeting and follow up if the problem is not resolved. Ask the school to reach out to the bully’s parents. It is equally important that the parents of the bully are aware of what is happening so they can address the issue at home. Also, have the school implement a bullying awareness campaign so everyone can be educated on the effects of bullying.

The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was something a lot of people grew up hearing. The problem is, words do hurt, and they can have a long-lasting effect. If your child is struggling with bullying and you’re having a hard time communicating with them, reach out. Right Turn can help. The essence of our organization exists in our commitment to children and families. We strive to provide the support and connections necessary for adoptive and guardianship parents. We can work with you and your family or put you in contact with a counselor who can help.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.