For parents, hearing about bullying in schools stirs up a lot of emotions. There's an overall sadness associated with bullying, but many also feel fear - fear that their child is being bullied or even doing the bullying. While it is impossible for parents to keep an eye on what is happening at school, there are ways for them to be involved in schools in order to prevent and fight bullying.
1. Volunteer At The School
A great way to stay connected to what's happening in your child's school is to actually spend some time there. The best way to do that is to volunteer wherever you're able. Options might be limited depending on child's age, grade and your own schedule but the more time you spend on campus, the easier it will be to recognize if any bullying is going on.
Parents can volunteer in the classroom, in the library, on the playground or, if your kids are older, as a recess monitor. No matter where you volunteer, your focus will be on either inspiring the kids or watching over them. Both options also mean ensuring as best you can that they're having a positive experience. Just being around gives the school an extra pair of eyes that can help identify negative situations like bullying.
The role you take on dictates how much control you have if you do witness any bullying. If you're monitoring the children on your own, possibly during a lunch break or recess, you might find that you have to speak up to alleviate the situation. But it's generally better to take your information to a school administrator who can deal with it in an official capacity.
2. If You Witness It, Speak Up
Some parents make the mistake of looking the other way when it comes to bullying, not fully understanding what they're witnessing and not always knowing what to do and who to turn to.
If you witness a situation that looks like bullying, speak up. Whether your child is doing the bullying or being bullied, both individuals need to know that the situation is not acceptable. If you don't feel comfortable approaching another child over the issue, talk to school officials so they can in turn talk to the child and his or her parents.
Some parents feelֲ that children should learn to work out their problems on their own or that they'll be interjecting themselves in the middle of a conflict, but bullying in schools is a major problem that can't always be solved peer to peer and that needs to involve adults.
3. Encourage Open Communication
There are many channels through which parents can encourage communication when it comes to bullying in schools. The most obvious is with your own children. Make sure they know that they need to speak up if they experience or witness bullying of any kind and that they should stand up for others who are on the receiving end of the harassment.
It's also important to encourage children to form positive relationships with their teachers, counselors or other authority figures so that they have someone on campus to turn to in case of any bullying-related issues. The more comfortable they are with the topic, the more likely they will be to speak up.
Another positive channel of communication should be between parents and their children's teachers or principal - or both. Teachers spend the most time with the students so they're the most likely to witness any conflicts that may arise. While bullies are likely to wait until authority figures aren't around to act, there are other signs that teachers can look for, such as students who are emotional following trips outside of the classroom.
Check in with teachers or even the principal, let them know if you're concerned about possible bullying and ask them to keep an eye out for any signs.
4. Create A Plan Of Action
If you're concerned about bullying in schools, get involved in a major way. If a safety team, anti-bullying task force or bullying prevention program has already been organized on campus, get involved. If there is nothing of that sort, consider creating one of your own. Partner with teachers or school officials to make sure that there is a direct link and school representative within the group. This can be a great way to get other parents and school administrators thinking about the signs and effects of bullying and the ways to prevent it.
Such a program can also make an impact on the student body. The more aware students are of bullying, the less likely they will be to partake in it - especially if they know the school is going to be watching for it. Opening up a discussion with the kids ensures that they are all informed on the topic and know what the school expects of them.
One way to really make sure everyone is on the same page is to create a list of do's and don'ts when it comes to bullying. Make sure every student gets a hard copy of the list and that they understand what counts as bullying and what the consequences are should they do it. Have them sign a paper saying they read the list and agree to uphold it to make sure they know how serious an issue it is. You can also transform the list into more informal posters and stick them around the school.
5. Set A Good Example
Often times, bullies act based on behavior they witness from family or friends. To make sure that your child doesn't bully others, set a good example at home. Promote a positive environment and encourage communication, individuality and confidence.
In addition, teach your children what constitutes bullying. Discuss teasing others, calling people mean names, excluding them from social situations and posting negative things about others online. All of these things can be considered bullying, but if you teach your kids what not to do, they'll be better prepared to face their tween and teen years as well as have the confidence to stand up for those around them.