Recent studies show that children with health issues such as food allergies report an increase in victimization of bullying. Pediatrics, an online medical journal reports “31.5% of the children reported bullying specifically due to FA, frequently including threats with foods, primarily by classmates.” (December 2012) You cannot always protect your child from bullying, but you can empower your child with the confidence to stand up to bullying. Simple tools such as learning how to respond to a bully, role playing, and talking about their feelings can make a big difference for your child.
5 Tips to Help Empower Your Child Against Bullying:
- Teach the difference between telling and tattling. Many children express a fear to stand up for themselves, worrying they are “tattling.” They also express a fear of repercussions for reporting bullying. A child recently used the term (new to me) “snitches get stiches.” It is important for children to understand the difference between telling and tattling. Tattling is telling on someone to get them in trouble. For example, when the teacher asks the class to put their books away and Johnny tells on Sally for continuing to read – that is tattling. Telling is informing the teacher of an incident that directly affects your child physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is providing a description of the incident and the feelings involved with the purpose of addressing the incident and preventing similar future incidents. Essentially, it is a means to keep your child and other children safe. When discussing telling versus tattling reassure your child the teachers will handle these situations delicately and try their best to protect your child’s privacy.
- Role Play. Practice or role playing empowers your child. It is an opportunity to go through the steps of responding to a bully in a safe environment where they can ask questions and receive your validation and encouragement. When your child has practiced responding to bullying or teasing they will feel equipped to handle a situation should it occur. An example of role play might be teaching your child to say, “Stop. I can get very sick.” Then walk away and tell an adult.
- Develop a plan. Talk with your child about what they would do if they were bullied – who do they feel most comfortable telling – their teacher, school social worker, or other staff member? Practice what they would say and how they might go about saying it. For example, will they raise their hand as soon as the incident occurs or will they go up to the teacher and ask to talk privately? If they see another child bullied what would your child do?
- Create healthy communication at home. I do not recommend asking your child daily, “Have you been bullied today?” I do, however, recommend creating moments for healthy one to one communication. Lead conversations by talking about bullying by asking if your child has observed bullying in school. Create regular conversations about your child’s day. One way to do this is to play the best/worst or high/low game. Each family member (including you) goes around and states the best or favorite part of their day and the worst part. This opens a safe environment to discuss any negative events that occurred in school. It also shows how other family members handle negative events.
- Seek support. If you are concerned your child is experiencing bullying at school it is important to talk to your child’s teacher, school social worker, or principal or seek the help of a therapist.