Here’s what the experts suggest:
Keep the lines of communication open.
“Tell me about it” is a good opening line to get your child to share his feelings. As your child speaks, be quiet and listen. Let him tell you how he feels about the situation, before probing for the facts. You need to understand how his sense of well-being has been affected.
Support your child.
Tell him: “It’s not your fault.” No matter what prompts a bully to act, such behaviours cannot be justified. Work with your child to develop an effective plan that allows him to stand up to the bully assertively, avoid potentially harmful situations, and regain his sense of power and well-being.
Report bullying incidents to the school.
Attempts to confront the bully or his parents alone may backfire. Bullies learned their behaviour somewhere, and parents of bullies may become defensive and blame your child. But bullies need to “unlearn” their behaviour. Tell school personnel (teacher, principal, or counselor) the facts about the incident, such as date and time, who was involved and what happened. Tell them how the experience has affected your child and ask for their support through active involvement. How will the bully be disciplined? What can be done to educate others who may have supported the bully tacitly by doing nothing?
Teach your child to tell an adult about bullying situations.
Most incidents occur when adults are not around. Children have been conditioned not to “tattle,” and may feel pressured to respect the playground code of silence. Even if your child can manage negative situations on his own, teach him that by alerting you and school personnel about bullying incidents, he will help himself and others. Without adult intervention, the bully is likely to go on to pick on other kids.
Recognize that bullying incidents do happen.
But don’t set your child up to expect that he will be bullied because of allergies, as this may create undue anxiety. Instill a positive sense of self in your child and remind him that he, like all children, deserves to be treated with respect.
School bullying won’t be eradicated; there will continue to be bullies and targets. How-ever, if everyone concerned is truly committed to “zero tolerance,” the number of such incidents can be significantly reduced.
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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