The effects of being bullied can have a lifelong impact if they are not dealt with or worked through. Bullying can lead to lower self-worth, depression, anxiety and even suicide. When you have either experienced or had one of your children experiences being bullied, it really hits home. If we continue working together as a community, we can help prevent bullying and stop others from a lifetime of pain.
Now, with the internet, texting using cell phones and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, there are so many more avenues to harm others. It is now labeled, “Cyberbullying,” and it has had devastating effects on many young people.
Bully prevention first begins at home. There are several key initiatives to help stop bullying in our schools and communities that you can begin today.
- Teach empathy – Work with your children on empathy skills. The most powerful way to teach empathy is by using it yourself with others and your children. You can start by saying, “I can imagine you feel ___________ (sad, mad, scared). It helps them understand what it is like to be validated for their feelings and understood. It’s important to learn feelings and what they mean so they can identify what another person might be feeling. Ultimately, you are trying to help them see how another person might feel. You can ask questions like, “What do you think he or she is feeling? How would you feel if you were in the same situation?”
- Speak Up – It’s extremely important kids feel like they have a voice and will be heard. This first begins by telling someone safe what is happening like a parent, teacher or school counselor. For years we taught our children not to be “tattle tales.” In other words, we didn’t want them coming to us to tell us every time someone did something wrong. I recommend having a conversation about if someone is saying mean words or pushing them around that is not okay and to first use their words to tell them to, “Stop!” Assertiveness skills are essential for life. Teaching them to say, “I don’t like it when you push me. Stop!” If the words do not work, then they need to tell someone safe. If it happens more than three times, it needs to be reported by an adult to a teacher or someone that can help keep your child safe.
- Internet Safety – If you do let your children use cell phones, Facebook and Twitter, it’s imperative that you have access and passwords to their accounts. Do not be afraid to monitor their texts and threads, which are the conversations. It will provide you a lot of information on their friends and what is happening in their social world. Outline safety rules and guidelines and consequences if they do not follow them.