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Teen bullying: What parents need to know
Prevention starts at home
If you believe that peers influence your child more than you do, think again. Research indicates that your actions can make a big difference. Studies indicate that parents' behavior can prevent teens from becoming either perpetrators or victims of bullying. This effect holds for all forms of bullying.
Consider these specific strategies:
- Get involved. Provide a safe, loving and intellectually stimulating home for your child. Simple activities such as helping with homework and sharing regular family meals have been linked to reduced rates of bullying.
- Monitor screen time. Some research links bullying to unsupervised television watching. Also keep an eye on your child's online activities and text messages.
- Develop emotional intelligence. Teach your child to manage negative emotions by setting an example with your own behavior. Reflect on how you respond to strong feelings of anger, fear or sadness — being careful to identify and accept your emotions, express them without blaming other people, and respond without aggression.
- Meet your child's friends. Welcome any chance to get acquainted with your child's friends.
Discussing teen bullying
Traditional teen bullying tends to decline with age, peaking during middle school and decreasing during high school. Cyber bullying might be an exception, however. More research is needed to determine whether this form of teen bullying becomes less common as children mature.
In the meantime, talk to your child about teen bullying. Even if your child doesn't confess to being bullied, offer specific suggestions to keep bullying at bay:
- Avoid isolation. If you're in a situation where you think bullying might happen, don't go it alone. Stick with trusted classmates during the school day. If you're walking home from school, find someone to go with you.
- Communicate self-confidence. Walk tall, make eye contact and speak assertively to the bully. Just saying "stop" or walking away from the bully — or deleting offending emails or text messages — may be enough.
- Nurture positive friendships. Spend time with trusted friends, or reach out to friendly peers. Make new friends through after-school activities, such as music, theater and athletics.
- Avoid violence. Getting involved in a fight may only lead to more aggression.
- Report dangerous situations. If you're being stalked or you've been physically attacked by a bully, don't be afraid to tell a trusted adult.
Responding to teen bullying
If your child admits being bullied, take action. Start by reassuring your child. Tell your child that you'll do everything in your power to help — and you won't revoke cell phone or Internet privileges as a consequence of being bullied. Never imply that getting bullied is your child's fault. Then:
- Record the details. Write down the details — the date, who was involved and what specifically happened. Record the facts as objectively as possible.
- Meet with school authorities. Start with a teacher who knows your child well. Ask whether your child's classroom behavior has changed or if there are any other warning signs. You might also consult a school dean, counselor or other school contact.
- Explain your concerns in a matter-of-fact way. Instead of finding blame, ask for help to solve the bullying problem. Keep notes on these meetings. Remember that it can take time for teachers and administrators to investigate bullying in a fair and factual way.
- Ask for a copy of the school's policy on bullying. Find out how bullying is addressed in the school's curriculum, as well as how staff members are obligated to respond to known or suspected bullying.
If these steps don't seem to help or your child has been injured or traumatized by continued bullying, consult a mental health provider. You might also consider talking to an attorney. Taking legal action to disrupt a culture of bullying can make your community safer for all teens.Previous page
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