Helping Your Child Through School Bullying

Despite the talk of zero-tolerance policies, school bullying remains a widespread problem. Because the psychological damage to victims of bullying can be extreme, schools have taken an interest in establishing policies and programs to raise awareness and combat bullying behavior. School bullying policies should be clear in every school, with zero-tolerance being the norm most places. In addition, many schools have peer mediation training or similar conflict-management programs to help students solve problems peacefully.

Responding to Bullying 
If your child has been a victim of bullying in school, action must be taken. Start by talking to him about what happened. Listen quietly, allowing your child to express what happened without being judgmental or emotional. Ask questions but don't be pushy. You might want every last detail, but it could be emotionally traumatic for your child to relive everything that happened. Ask open-ended questions and be empathetic. Help your child first, then involve teachers and other parents

Encourage your child to find ways to avoid this bully and gain the protection of friends. Protect your child's self esteem by letting her know that this is not her fault and you don't feel she is weak or helpless.

How to Stop Bullying in School
Start with the child's teacher, or the school counselor if that makes you more comfortable. Calling the parent of the bully or confronting the bully yourself are usually not good choices. Unless the other parent is a close friend, the parent may argue with you, try to avoid blame or suggest that your child had a role in the situation.

The school should be equipped to take action. There may be a mediation set, and if you need to be there, plan to be there to support your child. It is important for your child to feel protected and safe at school. Ask your child's teacher about how your child behaves in class. If the teacher has observed this harassment, what is being done. Develop a plan with the teacher and follow up regularly to find out if it's working. If the teacher can't or won't help, move up to the principal. Do not stop being an advocate for your child's safety.

Try to keep your child from being in an unsupervised situation with the bully by arranging transportation before and after school. Teach your child to be assertive, use his words and get help if she feels unsafe. Model safe behavior and assertiveness yourself, avoiding ridicule and put-downs in your own speaking. Cultivate a united front with your child's teacher and other adults in the school, and keep moving up the ladder, to the school board, local law enforcement or elected officials, if school administrators and staff aren't cooperative.

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