AskBarbara: Daughter facing bullying
My 10-year-old daughter recently told me that she was repeatedly teased and bullied during the past few weeks of school and now she is worried about going to other activities like ballet class and Hebrew school because she doesn’t want the same thing to happen to her in other places. My daughter is a typical kid who is a little tall for her age and wears glasses. Right before the beginning of school she got braces and I think that’s why the teasing started.
This just makes me feel sick! She’s such a good kid and has always had lots of friends. I’m concerned because I understand that this cruel behavior can seriously affect children and even have long-term, negative effects. How can I help my daughter deal with what has happened and feel more confident about herself so that she can participate fully in school and activities that she loves?
I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
Thank you, Concerned Mom
Thank you for your timely letter. October is National Anti-Bullying Month.
I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you daughter. Unfortunately, bullying continues to be a very common problem. Helping your daughter recover and heal from this experience will make it possible for her to move forward with confidence. Be patient because this is a healing process that takes time. Here are my suggestions:
How to Help Children HEAL from Teasing and Bullying
Hear – Talking is healing. Keep listening to your daughter and let her know that you believe what she is telling you.
Help – Offer support and comfort. Talk with her about her strengths and talents. By contradicting the negative messages from the bullies, you will help her maintain a healthy perspective about herself.
Hope – Being bullied can feel overwhelming. Children feel hopeless because they can’t make it stop. Give your daughter hope by letting her know that you are going to work on this with her and that you will find a way together to make it stop. (It might mean changing classes or schools.) Re-enforce that she is not alone.
Empathize – Validate her thoughts and feelings. Assure her that she will be OK. Praise your daughter for being brave and telling you about these episodes. So many children suffer in silence and isolation because they have been threatened by the bully not to tell or believe that their peers will reject them for being a tattle-tail.
Empower – Check out www.stopbullying.gov for excellent information about how to prevent bullying. Brainstorm and problem solve together what she can do if this happens again. Practice ways that she can respond by playing “What can you do if…. ?” (For example – “What can you do if someone starts teasing you about your braces?”) This will help her feel prepared and empowered in new situations. Guide your daughter towards effective and realistic solutions.
Engage – Sometimes the situation is more than a child can handle alone. She may need you to be directly involved by talking to others (principal, teacher, counselor, etc.) Even though this is a very personal issue for your family, bullying is everybody’s problem. So many different places (schools, camps, community centers, places of worship, etc.) ideally need to be involved in addressing and responding to this serious issue.
Abuse – Remember that repetitive teasing and bullying is abuse. Don’t let others discount these inappropriate actions by explaining them away as typical kid behavior. Developmentally speaking, 10 year old girls can be cruel and hurtful. Adults need to give clear and consistent messages that this is not OK and appropriate consequences need to be implemented when necessary.
Answer – Respond honestly, in an age appropriate way, to questions and concerns that your daughter may have. Here is a resource that you might find useful when having these conversations. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/07/how-to-talk-to-your-child_0_n_3984511.html
Action – Take action to stop teasing and bullying. Talk to other parents, teachers, professionals. Make sure there are safeguards in place that are really being enforced.
Love – Love your child unconditionally. Bullies tend to focus on a person’s weaknesses or vulnerable areas. Keep letting her know that she is special, likable and loveable.
Look – Make sure that she is all right. Look for red flags like behavior and mood changes, changes in sleeping patterns and appetite, isolating herself from others and from activities that she usually enjoys. Consider counseling as an option if you are concerned and/or seeing symptoms and changes that persist beyond a couple of weeks.
Learn – I wish, as I’m sure you do, that your daughter had never had to go through this, but there are valuable lessons in every life experience that can have a positive impact. For example: This might make her a more compassionate person or find within herself, a strong voice against bullying.
Your daughter is very fortunate to have such a caring and responsive mother. I hope that she has a wonderful year.
Wishing you all the best, Barbara