One day your kid comes home from school in a bad mood. Since then, getting them ready for school has become a mammoth task because they have started throwing tantrums every morning. The kid who used to love going to school and playing with their friends, who used to pester you constantly to tell them what you had packed for their lunch, now throws a fit every time you talk about school. They are always in a crappy mood and nothing cheers them up. You wonder what is happening to them and after some probing, you find out that they are being bullied at school.
The kids and teens you know today might be getting bullied everyday and chances are you wouldn’t have the slightest inkling about it. Despite a decrease in recent years, statistics for bullying are still shockingly high. Many children worry about not fitting in, and so they think that keeping mum is the way to go.
Whatever the form of bullying, it has super damaging physical and psychological consequences for a child. Such circumstances can lead to regular complaints of headaches or stomachaches, absenteeism from school, poor academic performance, low self esteem, anxiety, and at times self harm or even suicide. These can be prevented if we pay heed to the red flags. Dr. Anubha Majithia, our author and parenting expert, has listed out 5 ways in which we can help prevent the kids and teens in our lives from getting bullied. They are easy and effective and will go a long way in ensuring good mental health. Here are the 5 ways she recommends –
- Talk About It
The first step to counter bullying is to make your child aware of what bullying means. Instead of talking about it only when the child faces such a situation, it is better to make children aware about it from an early age. With young children, you can use drawings and stories to make the child understand how bullying takes place as well as which acts constitute bullying. With older children, short films or discussions can prove to be a useful tool to explain the concept of bullying.
- Establish Boundaries
At a time when people publicly share every living moment on social media, it is vital to explain the concept of privacy and personal space from an early age. You can do this by engaging your child and teen in a simple activity – ‘the circle of closeness’. Make three concentric circles on a page and label them as ‘inner’, ‘middle’ and ‘outer’ circles. Fill these circles up with groups of people like family and friends in the inner circle, teachers and neighbours in the middle circle, strangers in the outer circle. Now ask your child or teen to put people they know in these three circles. This simple activity helps to make children and teens understand the concept of boundaries and how much information can be shared with different groups of people.
- Encourage Assertiveness
The first solution that we offer children is to ignore the bully. Ignoring may be useful if one perceives a physical threat from the bully or if the bully is in the cyberspace and can be blocked. Assertiveness, on the other hand, presents a useful skill to stand up to bullies across situations. Make your child aware that there are usually three ways of responding to situations – submissive, aggressive and assertive.
- Build Self Esteem and Support Networks
Bullies usually target children who lack self esteem, are easily disturbed or isolated/lonely. Instead of constantly reprimanding children, inculcate self worth by identifying and building upon their strengths. Entrust them with one responsibility at every age so that they learn to be self-reliant. When children learn to draw their self-esteem from within and not hinge it on what others think, it can serve as an effective buffer against acts of bullying.
- Report and Be Proactive
Encourage children to report any act of bullying from an early age to the appropriate authority, even if the child or teen is a bystander. If you feel that your child’s reports of being bullied are going unheeded by the authorities and the bullying is not being adequately addressed, follow it up with the concerned authorities on a personal level.