Written by: Sarah Park, Library & Communications Coordinator
According to American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive action in which someone intentionally harms or discomforts another person constantly. Bullying is a toxic behavior because it can take several forms including physical, verbal, and more subtle threats, while the bullied individual undergoes difficulties in protecting themselves and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.
Canada is not safe from bullying according to statistics. Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in the 13-years-olds category on a scale of 35 countries, and almost half of Canadian parents report having a child who suffered from bullying. What is worse is that LGBTQ students experience more bullying than heterosexual students. These facts show it is important for parents to know how to help their child experiencing being bullied.
FCO has gathered resources in this post for parents of children who are being bullied. The resources aim to assist parents in helping to identify if their child is bullied and how they can help them. This can include tips like encouraging a child to speak about their experience, how to collect evidence, and identifying professional support resources.
Observe signs of your child being bullied:
Recognizing the signs is an important first-step because not every child is vocal about their sufferings. Possible signs are: Ripped clothing, hesitation about going to school, decreased appetite, nightmares, crying, or general depression and anxiety.
Talk with your child:
Provide a safe and supportive place where the child can gradually speak about their experience, and where you can learn details of the experience and prepare next steps to deal with it.
During the conversation, let the child know:
- Bullying someone is always wrong
- It is not their fault
- They are entitled to feel safe at school
- They are not alone
- Adults are be responsible for stopping the bullying.
Things you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t tell your child to just endure or “let it go.”
- Avoid making judgmental comments
- Don’t tell your child to stand up to the bully: This can escalate the situation and worsen it
- Avoid directly approaching the other parent/bullying child: Remember that children usually look for parents to guide them to solutions that will make them feel empowered. Involve your child in determination of possible solutions.
Teach your child not to reply or forward threatening e-messages. It can be a good idea to store your child’s phone in a public area at night, such as the kitchen. Report cyberbullying to the school and threatening messages to the police.
Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) developed Parent Tip Sheets, a multi-lingual resource that aims to educate parents on how to navigate cyberbullying together with their child through promoting open and supportive communication.
Collaborate with school or other professionals
Think about who can be involved to help your child. They can include school, health professionals, or even local law enforcement or legal counsel if the situation doesn’t improve.
Consider asking the school for their guidelines, such as school and board’s bullying prevention policy and code of conduct. These guidelines usually outline the kind of ways staff can help to stop bullying from occurring.
Avoid directly confronting the bullying child or their parents.
It is better to:
- Discuss the matter with teachers or counselors
- Allow school officials to mediate between the 2 parties if you still want to speak to the other parents.
Documenting the proof: Record your child’s experience
Document the event and make a record. This will be helpful when talking with school staff, law enforcement personnel, or other professionals. Don’t add personal opinions or emotions to the records. Documentation is an important step, in order to have proof of the incidents. Similarly, record cyberbullying through: Saving URLs/texts, printing emails/webpages, making screenshots, and encouraging your child to forward threatening messages to you.