The best time to prevent bullying is before it starts. You are your child’s first defense against bullying – keep the lines of communication open. Create informal opportunities in which family members regularly share the details of their respective day, both positive and negative. Make the most of mealtime conversations and car rides. Who do your kids sit with at lunch, play with at reccess, travel to and from school with? Inquire as to whether they know what bullying is and the reasons why it is unacceptable, even on a minor scale. Which adults would they be comfortable confiding in if they had a problem? What can your kids do when they witness someone else being bullied? Strategize ways for your children to be safe, such as staying near adults and groups of other kids.
Children often internalize their feelings rather than sharing them with others. Therefore, make it a priority to be involved at the school level – attend school events, connect with your children’s teachers and guidance counselor, greet the bus driver, exchange phone numbers with other parents. It is imperative that your child’s school have a formal procedure for addressing incidences of bullying. School personnel should be mandated to report incidences of bullying to a designated staff member. Students, as well as parents, should be encouraged to report any incidences of bullying of which they are aware. Immediate intervention strategies should include: protecting the victim from additional bullying or retaliation, reporting the incident to both the victim’s and perpetrator’s parents, and notifying law enforcement officials, if appropriate. Criminal charges should be pursued, consistent with applicable state and federal laws. If your school doesn’t have a formal policy in place, address the issue at an upcoming PTA meeting. Bullying is unacceptable. Let’s stop accepting it!