One of the most difficult things to experience is feeling excluded from the group. We all want to find our place in the world. At times the overt and covert ways your child can feel excluded, depending on their age, can become isolating.
Ironically, the brightest children are more often at risk of covert and overt bullying practices. They understand the implication of the behaviors demonstrated on social media, in media, and in their peer groups. They are able to pick up on cues that perhaps more naive counterparts are oblivious to. Depending on the age of your child, they may not have the emotional intelligence needed to weather the contradictions they experience in their world. Home life may be very affirming, while social life and school life are a dreaded nightmare. As parents, we must strive to stay in the know of the best ways to support our children and help them become bully-proof.
It is best not to plow right in, like a battling warrior on horseback, defending your young person’s (YP) honor and right to take their place in the tribe. What you can do is respond quickly and rationally. Reassure your YP that it is not acceptable to be picked on, singled out, or to be the perpetrator of either. Ask them how best to help them to stop bullying. Include them in the process of finding solutions.
Some Possible Signs Your YP Is Being Bullied
Is your YP acting reclusive by declining invites or shying away from friendships they normally enjoyed? Are they more reactive and irritable? Do you notice a sudden loss of appetite or overindulgence? Are they sleeping more or less? Are they lost in a virtual world of video game and/or social media? Do they become unhinged when asked to unplug and participate in family happenings or chores? Are grades suffering? Is your YP avoiding school or after-school activities?
Things to Watch for in a YP Who Is Bullying
Is your YP acting more abrasive or curt with you? Are they hanging out with the “wrong” crowd – kids who are already engaging in mischief and getting in trouble? Are they more reactive and irritable? Do you notice a sudden loss of appetite or overindulgence? Are they sleeping more or less? Are they lost in a virtual world of video game and/or social media? Do they become unhinged when asked to unplug and participate in family happenings or chores? Are grades suffering? Is your YP avoiding school or after school activities to hang out with the “wrong” crowd?
Tips to Help Educate Your YP Become Bully-Proof
Help your YP understand bullying and the idea that everyone deserves respect. Tell them to m to an adult they trust and help them identify who they are. Help them make a plan with someone they trust to stop bullying when it occurs.
Other tips for your YP: Stay away from places where bullying happens. Stay near adults, as most bullying happens when adults aren’t around. When it comes to Internet bullying, always think about what you post because you never know when someone will forward it. Be kind to others online. Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass anyone. Don’t share your passwords. Let your parents have your passwords. Think about who sees what you post online, and be sure to have your privacy settings set to control who sees what. Keep your parents in the loop. Let them friend or follow you. Talk to an adult you trust about any messages you get that make you sad or scared.
Tips to Help Your YP Not Become a Bully
Talk to them. Ask them about their day, life, friends, and whereabouts. Keep open communication about responsibility and accountability. Periodically review code of conduct and expectations of the same. Be a role model of good, friendly behavior. Monitor your own behaviors like gossiping and negative stereotyping. Monitor their behaviors; know their passwords and whom they are talking to online. Pair them with someone who can further assess what they may be experiencing like an older sibling or trusted relative. Get them involved in youth group or counseling if you are concerned.
The bottom line is that it takes a village to raise a child. Whether your YP is bullied or bullying, we as the adults need to monitor and intervene. We need to guide and step aside only far enough to continue to make sure the tribe is growing in a healthy collaborative way. If we want to see the change, we need to be the change and create healthy communities that are invested in our youth. Only then can we hope that all the unnecessary hardship and damage of unconscious acts will be eliminated and our world can be a little more inviting and inclusive of all regardless of gender, race, religious orientation, sexual orientation, and yes, even political opinion. Let’s teach looking for similarities rather than highlighting and attacking differences. A world of diversity is much more interesting anyway, we just need to learn how to get along and be nice.
Jacqueline Muller is Clinical Director and Owner of Dynamic Intervention Wellness Solutions. She is a NY State Licensed Clinical Social Worker.