My child is being bullied at school – what can I do as a parent?
*Trigger warning: In the first section I report on my own bullying experiences*
*This article is based on personal experience and is not professional advice*
Bullying – a sensitive topic. It can be good to know that you are not alone when faced with it yourself or through loved ones. This article would like to help give you hope, self-efficacy and a clear line and thus provide you with new ways of acting as you can support your child if they experience bullying at school.
I myself was a victim of bullying as a child. For years, starting in kindergarten, I had to go into the “lion’s den” every day and there felt like there was no way out. My parents weren't as aware of the situation as they should have been and I became more and more withdrawn and couldn't find the words to make myself heard.
Plus, home wasn't a place where I was better off - I felt like I wasn't safe wherever I was. I wasn't heard and, even worse, subconsciously I apparently felt that I just had to endure the role of victim.
Day in and day out I went to school afraid and expecting to be laughed at maliciously. During the break I was mostly alone. The whole class was turned against me and I often sat alone in class. Rumors about me spread across school desks across classes. Strange students insulted me in the hallway and laughed at me. On the way home from the bus I was followed by young people who wanted to scare me. I was once choked on the school bus until I passed out.
The real pain of such an oppressive situation for the child is the feeling of being alone. You may feel like they don't want to talk about it, but just knowing and feeling that they could talk if they wanted to helps tremendously.
But what if the child's experience of being alone seems so real? What if the child gets the impression that he or she is living in a reality that no one else perceives as they do? The feelings of fear and isolation, of helplessness and powerlessness pull the rug out from under him the most.
Feelings arise like: “I’m not allowed to be here. I'm worthless. I'm ugly. I'm alone. Nobody sees me. It's normal for me to be afraid. Life is not beautiful.”
In addition, depending on their age, a child is not yet able to consciously think about, reflect on and understand their situation. If it thinks no one is listening, it seems trapped within itself. It cannot sit down and rationally say to itself: “It can’t go on like this. I need to talk to someone.”
This is where we parents come into play: We think and act for the child in a parental, protective, loving attitude. We take responsibility. Remember: If we don't do it, most of the time no one will.
How can you optimally support your child, even in situations in which you yourself may seem to be at your limit? Carrying out a bullying situation as a family is usually just one of many acute hot spots that need to be extinguished. This requires sensitivity.
First, remember: You can only help if you are helped. Therefore, pay attention to what you need in order to be able to freely be there for your child in your heart. Do yourself good. Consider your needs. Speak for yourself. Set boundaries. Show yourself and your child how one is
A person can behave in order not to fall under the wheels. Because you too are worth it.
What can I do? Tips and Tricks
Be a safe place. Your child needs to know that they are safe as soon as they walk through the front door at home. It needs eye contact and physical closeness, loving gestures and your full attention when it comes home. Even if he or she is still at school, he or she needs to know that my mom/dad is at home and is thinking about me. He/she is waiting for me. There is someone who I can completely trust and who cares about me.
Train your child to have self-confidence and self-love - it's never too early! Your child can learn, especially through how you treat them, that they have the right to be treated with respect and love. That nothing can be done to him against his will. That they can open their mouths at any time and express their opinions without being punished for it. Your child wants to have the experience of being heard and that their words and attitude have an impact.
Convey your love to your child every day, especially through your attention to the topic! Notice what mood your child comes home in. Forget your own challenges as best you can for a few moments and concentrate on being fully present with your child. Meet him/her at eye level and offer a space in which he/she can talk about how the school day went.
Defeat powerlessness together
Note: Many children find the idea of their parents getting involved, for example by trying to have a conversation with the parents of the bullying children, unbearable. They fear that everything will then become even worse.
Take this fear seriously. It is real and may give the child sleepless nights. Discuss what you can do with your child in an age-appropriate manner: convey to them that you are in the same boat as them. You consider the child’s wishes and needs and you “come up with a plan” together.
Make your child understand that you are willing to do whatever it takes to change the situation without going beyond his or her will.
Bring hope: Teach him that an unbearable situation must never be endured in silence and motionless.
Be prepared to write an apology and leave the child at home (of course, be careful not to take advantage of this). But also train your child to speak back, to act instead of reacting and to face the situation appropriately.
If you don't know what to do, talk to experts about it. Be active. See yourself as an accompanying role and show your child that you believe in them. It is in a delicate, challenging and, depending on the extent, traumatic situation and needs one thing above all:
The hope of knowing, “I can do this and I can get out of this.” This situation will come to an end.” For example, discuss with the child a point in time at which he or she will be removed from the situation if nothing has changed by then. Maybe he still has the need to persevere and grow beyond himself. However, it can be very helpful to know: Either way, in five months, five weeks, five days or even immediately, we will have a solution (for example a change of school) to end the situation.
If you would like to find out more about family and pregnancy, mindfulness, nutrition or sustainability, check out more exciting blog articles on these topics here .AUTHOR: SARAH ACKER