It’s an all too familiar story to many people. A kid who likes to laugh and play just like the others but maybe they look a little bit different. Maybe they’re shy, or just a bit quirky. Or perhaps they’re just an unlucky target of another’s misplaced anger. Whatever the reason, kids get bullied by other kids, and it happens far too often.
That is the story of Jenny, a little girl with bright white blonde hair who liked to walk around in boots and a bathing suit.
“I was quiet but loved to laugh and be silly,” Jenny recalls in a post at BlogHer. “I enjoyed my swing set, going to the boardwalk, and being with my family. I have wonderful memories of my childhood.”
For Jenny, the bullying began in fifth grade and continued through high school. “It started with names, and then sounds that went with those names. I do not want to even tell you what these kids called me…because it still gives me chills down my back.”
Cases like Jenny’s are far from unusual. About 28 percent of students ages 12 through 18 report being bullied. And with more kids going online to interact socially, cyberbullying is becoming a greater problem.
One million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook alone in the past year.
- Help your child understand bullying. Explain what bullying is.It is more than
physical; it can be done in person or over the phone or computer.
- Keep open lines of communication with your child. Check in with your child and listen to any concerns about friends and other students.
- Encourage your child to pursue their interests. Doing what they love may help your child be more confident among their peers and make friends with other kids with similar interests.
- Teach your child to take a stand against bullying. Give guidance about how to stand up to those who bully if it is safe to do so.
- Talk to your child about seeking help from a trusted adult when feeling threatened by a bully. Talk about whom they should go to for help and role-play what they should say. Assure your child that they should not be afraid to tell an adult when someone they know is being bullied.
- Know what is going on in your child’s school. Visit the school website, subscribe to the student paper—if there is one—and join the PTA listserv or mailing list.
- Get to know other parents, school counselors, and staff. Contact the school by phone or e-mail if you have suggestions to make the school a safer and better learning place.
Jenny, now in her thirties with an MBA and two children, credits her family for helping her through the difficult times. “They gave me the confidence to get up in the morning and face my bullies head on. They let me cry when I needed to, and they did everything in their power to help me.“
Were you ever bullied as a kid? Did you ever bully a classmate? How do you teach your children to deal with bullies?
See the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s page on bullying here.