Anti-Bullying Support Systems at Home and at School
By Amy Williams @AmyKWilliams1
What do you think of when you hear the word TOMATO?
Most people envision spaghetti sauce, pico de gallo, BLT’s, or toppings for a salad. However, our family has come to loathe the garden staple. We didn’t start out despising this summertime treat--in fact we usually anticipated it.
That was until this past summer, when bullying found it’s way into our child’s life and left us reeling from pain and hurt.
Bullying Happened To Us
Sixth grade had just begun: the year was fresh and full of promise. Our 12 year old son eagerly signed up to play football in a recreational league. As we signed the permission slips, we were completely unaware of the misery we had just invited into our child’s life.
Somewhere between the school and practice fields, our son found himself the target of a bully. It started when a pile of rotten tomatoes was discovered in a ditch along the route the team walked to the field. Every afternoon, boys would smash the decayed globs into our son’s face and taunt him with cruel words.
Over and over this happened.
Then it escalated to pelting our son with walnuts. When the bully grew tired of that method, he began tossing our child’s cleats onto the roof of the concession stand.
Soon our son didn’t want to play football. He began having terrible stomach aches and cried that he couldn’t go to school. His grades began to drop and we received emails from concerned teachers about his changing personality.
We knew something was happening, but our son kept quiet, protecting his tormentors.
Finally, it was our turn to drive the carpool, and we noticed our son walking to the van barefoot and holding back tears. After the other boys had been delivered, our son finally erupted into spasms of tears and wails.
His admission finally made sense. He had been displaying a lot of the typical signs of being bullied:
● Disrupted sleep schedules
● Lack of interest in his hobbies and pastimes
● Worried emails from teachers
● Declining grades
Gaps Between Home And School
We had been clueless to his suffering until that afternoon.
The next morning, we made a few calls to his teachers and coaches. Immediately, the teachers and administration took our situation seriously. They paid extra attention during class, transition times, and lunch.
All of the intervention was wonderful, except that there was no way to extend this beyond the brick walls of the school.
Suddenly, the world outside of home and school became frightening for our tween. We couldn’t be with him 24 hours a day. Our child had to deal with his bully at practice, Scouts, church, and even the swimming pool!
What were we supposed to do?
Steps Schools Can Take to Address Reports of Bullying
Fortunately, our family felt supported and encouraged by the school administration. We know this isn’t always the situation. Here are some ways schools can be part of the support system needed:
Listen to Students: When students experiencing bullying encounter an administration that either tries to brush of or delegitimize their claims, the problem can become exponentially worse. One of the primary effects of bullying at school on children is making them feel unsafe at school. When school administrators are doing nothing to address an unsafe atmosphere, students can feel like they have no escape.
Address the Problem: Schools often avoid involvement with reports of bullying due to fear of running into bigger problems down the line, whether with the bully's parents or other school administrators. However, when failure to act can further jeopardize students' safety, steps should be taken immediately in almost all cases. This can take the form of anything from observing how the bully talks to the child, to questioning the bully him or herself.
Communicate with Parents: While addressing bullying itself should be a priority, communicating with parents of both bullied children and bullies is an important step to preventing bullying as well. This will ensure that proper steps can be taken at home to make sure children feel safe and supported.
Watch for Signs of Bullying: Students shouldn't feel like they're always being scrutinized, however they should feel that, if they were to be bullied, they would have the proper administrative recourse. Stopping bullying before it escalates is the best step to take in preventing bullying.
8 Tips For Mindful Parents
If a parent feels their child is being bullied, here are 8 strategies to help stop the situation from developing into a more serious problem:
● Seek peer and mentor support. Look into a program that pairs a child with a mentor. Pairs spend quality time together to give a child extra encouragement.
● Start a bullying awareness group in your community.Host a guest speaker or raise awareness with groups like Stand For The Silent.
● Join online anti-bullying communities. Groups offer emotional support and practical resources for families dealing with bullying situations
● Document acts of harassment. Be proactive-save evidence in case you seek intervention from the authorities.
● Be present. An adult presence can be a great deterrent to bullying. Volunteer at events and listen to your child. Let them know you have their back.
● This will pass. Reassure children the situation will get better.
● Model good social skills and positive interactions. Children are watching and emulating what they see. Demonstrate kindness.
● Monitor a child’s cell phone and Internet activity. Cyberbullying is quickly becoming the favored method to attack a victim. Keep children safe and track their Social Media pages, texts, and friend lists.
Strengthening Anti-Bullying Support
Ultimately, after a lot of deliberation, we decided to contact the aggressor’s parents. This might not work for everyone, but we knew the family and felt it was the best solution. After conferring with each other and a lot of discussion with both boys, the bullying finally tapered off.
It’s easy to overlook bullying, especially when children hide the truth from parents. We need to be aware that bullying prevention starts at home. Something as simple as taking an extra minute to reinforce positive social skills can make a big impact in the life of all children.
Society needs to be vigilant and strengthen anti-bullying support so life doesn’t surprise others with rotten tomatoes.