Making sure back to school doesn’t mean back to bullying

For some children, the start of school means the beginning of bullying. Thousands of students will return to school only to face intimidation and cruelty at the hands of their peers. For too long, this behavior, which includes not only physical and verbal torment, but also isolation and rejection, has been viewed as just kids’ stuff.

As adults, most of us can remember seeing or even participating in bullying behavior when we were young. Some of us even know what it’s like to be the victim — to be scared, to not want to go to school for fear of torment and abuse. Today, with the advancement of technology, bullying extends beyond the school grounds. This is called cyberbullying.

What can parents do to help their children have a peaceful, respectful school year?

It’s important to teach your child everyone deserves respect. This includes accepting differences that are racial, cultural or ability based. You have to model this behavior in all your interactions so your child adopts it.

Make time to talk with your child about what’s happening at school. Remind him or her to report bullying to a trusted adult, whether it’s happening to him or her or to someone else. Most kids aren’t bullies or victims, they’re bystanders. Bystanders can play an important role in stopping bullying by refusing to encourage or cheer on the bully and by supporting the victim.

What to do if your child is bullied

What you should not do:

  • Don’t minimize, rationalize or explain away the bully’s behavior.
  • Don’t rush in to solve the problem for your child.
  • Don’t tell your child to avoid or ignore the bully.
  • Don’t tell your child to fight back.
  • Don’t confront the bully or the bully’s parents alone.

What you should do:

  • Tell your child I’m here for you; I believe you; you are not alone in this.
  • Tell your child it’s not his or her fault.
  • Report the bullying to school leaders.

Stopping bullying behavior is imperative to the health and well-being of the victims and the bullies themselves.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is committed to keeping kids healthy and safe. That’s why we created Act Now!, an e-learning program designed for students. This fun and engaging program helps kids keep their classrooms safe by creating a bully-free environment. Ask your child’s principal if they are using Act Now!, or learn more about the program at healthykidslearnmore.com.

~ Richard Schafer, program development and evaluation manager, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Richard Schafer

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