Become an Anti-Bullying Advocate (and Encourage Your Child to Be One, Too)

7 min to read
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Most parents experience a range of emotions the first time they have to let their child go into the world on their own. Whether taking your child to daycare or enrolling them in a class or activity, you feel excited for the great things they are about to experience and the new friends they are going to make. 

But there is always that nagging thought in the back of your mind—you hope the other kids are nice and that your child won’t be bullied. 

What Is Bullying?

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury of discomfort.” Forms of bullying could be physical, verbal, or relational, and usually involves an imbalance of power, with the person doing the bullying having a perceived power over the person they are bullying. 

Bullying is a serious problem in the United States, with nearly 20% of students ages 12-18 reporting they have experienced bullying. Cyberbullying is also rising at an alarming rate, with an estimated 14.9 percent of high school students reporting being bullied online or by text. 

The effects of bullying can be devastating. Kids who experience bullying have higher incidents of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. They also experience lower academic achievement. It is estimated that 160,000 students skip school every day because of fear of being bullied. The trauma of being bullied as a child or teen sticks with people throughout their lives.

Recognize the Signs

Children need to learn how to navigate all types of social situations, including conflict with friends and classmates. Some conflict is a normal part of growing up—there will always be disagreements that kids learn to work through. 

Bullying is different than normal childhood conflicts. It is ongoing harassment that breaks a child down. Kids that are being bullied need support from parents, the school, and their peers to address what is happening and ensure they feel safe, welcomed, and included. 

As a parent, how do you know if your child is experiencing normal peer conflicts or if they are being bullied? Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Reluctance to go to school. Kids who are being bullied try to avoid going to school. They may complain of feeling sick or may show signs of being afraid to go to school.
  • Grades begin to fall. Kids who are being bullied may lose interest in school as they are simply trying to survive the day. Their grades often suffer.
  • Change in friendships. They no longer want to hang out with friends and will often isolate themselves. People they’ve been friends with for a long time may suddenly not be in their lives.
  • Lost or destroyed clothing or personal items or unexplained injuries
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Self-harm. Kids who are being bullied may start to harm themselves by cutting or burning, and they may also talk about suicide. 
Discussing how to be an antibullying advocate

What Parents Can Do to Help

If you suspect your child is being bullied, it’s important to open the lines of communication. Talk to them about what may be going on. Really listen to what they have to say. They may not want to talk and may feel shame about what is happening, but it’s important to keep trying to get them to open up to you. Ask about their friendships, experiences, and feelings. Be empathetic and let them know you are there to help them.

It’s important to also manage your own feelings. Stay calm and try not to lose your temper. They need stability at this time in their lives. Also, be sure to reassure them that this isn’t their fault. 

Bullying comes from a need for power. Once you understand what is happening to them, roleplay with your child about what they can say or do when confronted by the bully to gain back some control and help them get on even-footing with the bully. Teach them to be firm with telling the bully to stop, or to simply to turn and walk away. Roleplaying will also help them gain confidence in their ability to respond. Talk to your child about standing tall and looking the bully in the eye. 

You can also build their confidence by expanding their support group. Get them involved in extracurricular clubs or sports where they can meet new people and expand their group of friends. When kids feel like they belong somewhere, they have more confidence and potentially more peer support. Even a single friend can help them feel safe and protected. 

Work behind the scenes with the school. It’s important for your child’s teachers and school administration to know what is happening so they can support your student and intervene on their behalf during school. 

It’s also important to know when the situation has deteriorated to where it is seriously harming your child’s mental health. If the bullying is happening at school and you aren’t finding the support you need to make it stop, explore other options, including online schools like Connections Academy®. 

From Parent to Anti-Bullying Advocate

With the rise in mental health issues and suicide in our nation’s youth, there are many things that can be done within a school community to advocate against bullying. 

Encourage your school to have an ambassador program for new students, who are often targets for bullies because they don’t have a support system of friends. Ambassador programs are great ways to help new students feel connected to the school community, whether it is a brick-and-mortar school or online school. It also gives new students a safe support group to make them less of a target for bullies. 

Get involved in your school through parent organizations or online parent groups and discuss ways to advocate for anti-bullying and make your school a safe environment. Work as a group to host a wellness fair where you can share information on bullying, including where to go for help. Ask your school to host an assembly to openly discuss bullying, including the types of behaviors that are considered bullying, what cyberbullying is, and how to get help if a student needs it. Encourage your school to have children sign a code of conduct that outlines what behaviors will not be tolerated, then make sure they hold students accountable.  

Start a kindness campaign in your school community where kids are encouraged to spread kindness. This helps them think about what it means to be kind. It also helps students make connections and teaches them about empathy. 

Teach Your Child How to Become an Anti-Bullying Advocate

Children who are bullied feel isolated, left out, and alone. Your child can become an anti-bullying advocate by standing up for others in a safe way. When they see something, teach them to talk to you, a teacher, or other trusted adult who can help the child being bullied. Confronting the bully themselves is not always safe, so it is better for them to go to a trusted adult. 

It’s also important in today’s world to teach your child to show kindness to others and be inclusive. Bullies target people without a support group. Your child can help by including the child being bullied.  This will help the child in trouble gain self-confidence and feel better about themselves. Raising children who are emotionally intelligent and teaching them to be kind will help them throughout school and life. 

A family supporting each other

Online School Support

Connections Academy offers an inclusive learning environment where everyone is welcomed and included. Students learn from the safety and comfort of their own homes, giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential without fear of being bullied. We also have school counselors to support a student’s overall well-being and can guide students and parents to resources if there is experience with bullying. Attend a Connections Academy information session to learn more.  

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