In recent times, we have been made aware of unfortunate incidents of black children taking their own lives due to factors such as bullying.
This year, a 10-year-old Kentucky boy took his own life after being repeatedly bullied at school for wearing a colostomy bag.
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A nine-year-old girl, Maddison “Maddie” Whittsett, who was occasionally bullied at school, was also found dead last November in her closet after intentionally hanging herself.
That same year, 9-year-old A’layah Weatherspoon was found hanging from her brand new bunk-bed with a leather belt around her neck. She also experienced intense bullying.
These tragedies in the U.S. should put parents on the alert but unfortunately, most children do not often share with their parents that they are being bullied largely due to embarrassment and shame.
They try to take in all the punching, name-calling or threats from kids who find delight in bullying their peers because it makes them feel more important or probably because that’s the way they’ve been treated.
But whatever the reason may be, parents must take it upon themselves to look out for warning signs and take the following steps when their child is being bullied:
1. Talk to your child
A child who is being bullied may start exhibiting certain signs such as not wanting to go to school and scoring low marks in exams. Look out for these signs in your child and sit with them if you find that something isn’t right. Ask your child how their day went in school and if they tell you about a bullying situation, try and get the facts, including what exactly happened, who was involved and whether others were present. The answers you get will help you take the next course of action.
2. Keep your cool
We all know that bullies are out there to create fear and always want a particular sort of reaction. Don’t give them that. As a parent, you might be tempted to take matters in your own hands once your child tells you he has been bullied. But this won’t help your child at all in dealing with the problem. So, instead of quickly retaliating against the bully or their family, calmly think about what you can do to help your child face the issue.
3. Teach your child to stand up to the situation
Even as you teach your child how to stand up to their bullies, it is important to let them know that they shouldn’t inflict any verbal or physical harm. You can coach them on things to tell their bullies like: “Back off” or “Just leave me alone.”
Your child could also try, “Yeah, whatever,” and then walk away. “The key is that a comeback shouldn’t be a put-down, because that aggravates a bully,” said Michele Borba, Ed.D., a Parents advisor and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.
Teach your child to speak in a firm voice instead of crying while responding to bullies. You can even role-play the bully while your child practices these responses until you feel they are now confident to deal with any bullying situation.
4. Talk to the teacher
Let your child know that if the bullying gets out of hand, they can talk to their teachers or guidance counselors about it. Often, teachers are the best people to know the kind of relationships children have in the classroom and they may, therefore, find a solution. As your child talks to their teacher or counselors, make sure you approach them too as a parent and work together with them in finding a solution. You can also contact people outside of school, such a family therapist to help deal with the situation.
5. Contact the bully’s parents
Get in touch with the parents of a bully. Let them know what is going on but do this in a non-confrontational way. Explain to them that your aim is to find an amicable solution to the matter.
Meanwhile, encourage your child to walk with friends on campus as bullies are not likely to single out an individual when they are surrounded by friends who can support them.