Bullying is a huge problem in schools. Most children who are bullied do not do well in school and may suffer depression or turn into bullies. Most parents wish they could bully proof their children, the truth is as long as our children are mingling with many different children in school, we cannot really protect them, what we can do as parents is to prepare them to face those dreaded moments.
- Create Stability at home. Children need to identify home as a safe haven, a place of comfort and love. The toxic nature of bullying will sting but, the fact and thought of returning to a loving home, will act as an antidote. Children who come from unstable homes, usually struggle socially because they have no positive modelling as a behavioural reference point.
- Give your child positive affirmations. Some children are bullied because they are smaller than others and therefore easy targets, some are bullied because they look different. If there is anything in your child perceived as negative, funny or strange, bullies will magnify that all the time. Therefore, whatever your child’s unique characteristics, you have to feed them positive affirmations, find their strong points and focus on those, for example, “smart girl”, “brave boy” and “bright student”. There is a saying that goes, “You have to fill your child’s cup, so that even if the world pokes holes on it, it will never completely drain out”. This will help keep your child’s self-esteem intact in the face of corrosive environments.
- Have clear communication with your child. Be easy to approach, accessible and responsive. Schedule a time every evening where the child reports the day’s events, whether positive or negative and that no matter how ugly or embarrassing things may get, you will always be there for them. Do not blame or crucify the child for what happens to them, be kind and supportive, that way you establish trust and your child will not withdraw from you.
- Nurture in them a courage and self-confidence to speak up at school whenever they have been bullied by someone. Find out where they can seek help at school. Have direct and easy communication with teachers and authorities; this will go a long way in smooth and timeous resolution of problems. Follow up with the school and ensure the offender has been held accountable and punished for their behaviour.
- Discourage your child from fighting back. This may result in physical harm. Teach them to solve problems without resorting to violent behaviour like walking away, talking it out, avoiding the bully, making new friends, or asking for the teacher’s intervention. Educate your children about bullying, its causes, signs and effects, so they understand it in context and will not take it personally.