Starting Off the School Year on the Right Track
With the start of the school year the RESPECT staff is busy working with schools and other youth serving organizations setting up programs for the upcoming year. I get many calls from parents about how they can best talk with their kids about bullying. Here are some thoughts that I have shared with others and tried to use with my own children when they were younger:
- Talk with your kids about bullying. Teach them what you want them to know in the context of your family values and their age. Talk about bullying as a family throughout the year. Teach your kids what bullying is and isn’t. Have conversations about bullying behavior that happens in a story, what you see on television or that you observe in daily life. Discuss why people might make the choices that they do, how they might be feeling and how others can help.
- Get information before you need it. Schools have policies and procedures about bullying. They also have resources and people to help. It’s ok to ask questions and ask for help. It’s ok to share information with them that you think they need. My favorite online source for information is stopbullying.gov
- Check in regularly. Listen, watch and ask. Ask your child regularly how their school relationships are going. Keep an eye on their social media communications and social interactions. Pay close attention to changes in behavior or mood. Ask directly, “I’m worried about you because you aren’t spending as much time with your friends as you used to, what’s going on?” Ask open ended, nonjudgmental questions.
- Listen calmly if your child shares that they are experiencing a bullying situation and let them know you are proud that they shared with you. Problem solve together different things they could do (or you can help with) that could make the situation better. Let them know that not everything they try will work and that is ok, but it is a good thing to try! Consider role-playing with them to have them share more clearly what they are experiencing or to practice possible responses. Practice makes almost everything better! Make sure to check in to see how things are going.
If you think you need to get school personnel involved try to find a way that allows your child some choices, control, and privacy in reporting, as possible. As always, safety is the most important factor.