Sticks and Stones
There has been a lot in the papers lately about bullying and cyber-bulling, in light of Rehteah Parsons’ death. Obviously, this is a complicated issue with no simple answers, but every parent wants to keep their kids safe, even though that’s not always possible.
Although not all kids will tell you outright that they are being teased or harassed at school, watch for changes in their moods, lack of enjoyment in activities they used to gain pleasure from, and a general down mood. If cyber-bullying is a factor, they may become secretive or have strong reactions when it comes to computer use. Of course, these signs could also be indicative of other issues, but it gives parents a place to start when looking for warning signs.
Friends and a sense of belonging are probably the best antidote to bullying, so encourage your child to develop close relationships with people she likes and trusts in many areas – yes, at school, but also on sports teams, at church, in the neighbourhood you live in, or other activities like Guiding and Scouting. Having a safe zone that is separate from the tormentors can bring some much needed respite for kids, especially since cyber-bullying can follow a person anywhere. If the behaviour crosses from teasing to tormenting, get involved at school and include the police if you feel that’s what’s called for, and work together to create anti-bullying plans. Find a balance between letting your child handle the situation the way she feels most comfortable and advocating on her behalf when the situation crosses a certain line.
These are simple, starter steps, and not meant to be an exhaustive resource for handling complicated, ongoing, or dangerous instances of bullying. Good places to start if you need more than just the basics are BullyingCanada.ca and PrevNet, both web sites with many resources for parents, kids and communities. Our thoughts go out to the Parsons family at this time of tragedy.