How to talk to kids about bullying
Bullying is a tricky topic for both children and adults. With nearly 17 percent of children reporting monthly bullying incidents, bullying is on the rise. Harvard Medical School recently released a study on the long-term effects of bullying, noting that bullying can lead to devastating problems for victims and their communities later in life.
“Many mass murderers are driven by anger over a rejection, bullying or perceived mistreatment”, said Harry Croft, a San Antonio psychiatrist specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder, in an interview with USA Today. “Hatching and executing a plan may give them a sense of power and control.”
Since 85 percent of bullying occurs in schools, it can be difficult to tell whether your child is being bullied or not. More than half of bullying victims don’t tell their parents. Sometimes children don’t tell their parents about being bullied, because they are confused or embarrassed. For more information on bullying statistics and the dangers they pose later in life, see this Long-term Effects of Bullying infographic.
Talking to your children about the dangers of bullying can make future communication on this topic easier. Seattle-area psychiatrist Dr. Henry Berman of Seattle Children's Hospital explains, “Parents armed with an understanding of bullying, and supplied with information and resources about how to help, can play a critical role in preventing bullying or in minimizing the consequences of the experience.”
Many free resources are available online to help you prepare for a conversation with your children. Bullying is a nationwide issue that the US government is currently trying to combat with its “Stop Bullying” campaign. This online resource suggests that parents ask their children open-ended questions, like “How was your school bus ride?” to prompt bullying conversations.
If the child does not reveal bullying information through answering your questions, a more direct approach may be necessary. Tell your child he is not alone. Ask simple, direct questions such as, “What does bullying mean to you?” and “Tell me about someone who is a bully.” Many children don’t reveal that they’ve been bullied freely. It may take several conversations to learn of an incident.
If you do discover that your child is being bullied, seek professional counseling. Framing the conversation with your child about seeing a psychiatrist takes careful thought. It is important that the child understand that talking to a psychiatrist does not mean he is mentally ill.
Tell children that psychiatrists help people who are going through rough patches feel better, and that they are not “crazy.” Maintaining open communication with your child about the reality of bullying will make any necessary visits to the psychiatrist as painless as possible. Visit the bullying statistics database for more tips for starting the conversation.