Most of us have encountered bullying personally, but today's bullying is far worse than it was years ago. Cyberspace allows bullying to reach more people more quickly, and it often goes undetected and undisciplined. Yet the effects of bullying live in the minds of those who are bullied. It might reveal itself in poor academic performance and poor self-confidence. It also affects children through insomnia or anger, especially when it remains unresolved. Parents may not always know what's actually going on.
Children often fear their bullies and will not reveal what is going on. Then what happens in the dark remains in the dark. It's the job of parents and educators to bring what happens in the dark it to light. The more we talk about it the more likely children are to not participate in bullying and to not accept being a victim of bullying. They understand their rights; they understand what they need to share, what they need to report and they can then build resilient skills and coping skills for encounters they experience. I encourage parents to speak boldly, openly and often with your children about bullying. Ask children to report bullying not only when it happens to them but when it happens to others. Ask children to dissuade others from bullying. When it occurs, someone needs to report it. Parents are able to intervene and possibly even get counseling or therapeutic services for their children, and they can apprise other parents or educators of what is happening. Children should not have to face bullying alone.
You may recognize when your child is being bullied if there are behavioral changes such as not wanting to go places that they've always enjoyed going. Or, if they don't talk about school with the same excitement and joy, or they may begin to act out. Are they pulling away or more often depressed? Encourage children to talk with you about whatever it is that they're going through. Sometimes journaling might be a great way for the communication to stay open.
My children's book He Never Slumbers addresses bullying in a different way. It encourages prayer and a dependence on God to help with any situation. The main character, Caleb, encounters a bully repeatedly; he doesn't talk with his parents about it, but he's learned in Sunday School that God is always watching. He will work out the problem with the bully. Children must understand that a children's book is short. The resolution comes very quickly, yet in real life situations, problems aren't solved that readily. Problems may persist for a longer time but during the course of problems, strength is developed and character is built. This character and strength will be needed in future situations; however, children still must learn that they do not need to go through situations by themselves. They don't need to look down on themselves and they don't need to feel badly because someone else picks on them. Bullies have usually been bullied and they just look for prey to take their frustrations out on. Let's talk more about bullying and keep the lines of communication open. Let’s make children feel safe when they report bullying by listening and surrounding our children with the support systems they need.