Oct. 24, 2012
Bullying... talking about it is key
The tragic death of B.C. resident Amanda Todd this month has sparked a lot of talk about bullying in schools, in homes and in the news across the country. It’s certainly a topic worth discussing. Bullying is a concern for any parent—I know it was for me when my kids were growing up. And now with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, bullying can and does take place 24 hours a day through social media.
As parents, we might wonder if our kids are being bullied by their peers, or if they are bullying others. While teachers, other trusted adults and even friends and fellow classmates, have a role to play in identifying and addressing bullying, I believe parents have the primary responsibility in dealing with this unwanted, aggressive behaviour.
What can we do? Talk with your children and help them understand what bullying is and how to stand up to it in a safe way. Talk with your children regularly about school, recess, their friends, their concerns—dig for more than just “fine” when you ask how their day was. Talk with your children about their interests, their favourite hobbies, and what they think they are good at, and build confidence in them by encouraging them to do those activities. Put simply, talk with your children.
Also, look for warning signs that may be a result of being bullied or bullying. Kids who are bullied may come home with unexplainable injuries, lost or damaged clothing or electronics, they may have difficulty sleeping, declining grades or sudden lack of interest in school. Children who bully might exhibit increasing aggressive behaviour, have friends who also bully others, have unexplained extra money or new belongings, get into physical or verbal fights, etc. If you notice these signs, talk with your child.
I’d like to stress one more point. Sometimes kids won’t speak up about bullying because they think they are tattling on the perpetrator. Being a tattle-tale (trying to get someone else in trouble) is very different from exposing the reality of bullying (unwanted behaviour that is a threat to a person’s safety, whether physical, emotional, or psychological). Talk with your children so they know the difference.
There are lots of good tips and resources online if you want to delve a little further. One site I found helpful is www.stopbullying.gov. But the best way to take action is by starting the conversation with your children now. Don’t wait... there’s too much at stake.