- Involve children in activities / groups outside the school. Give them an identity and acquaintances outside the ‘fishbowl’ of their classroom. The younger the child is when s/he becomes involved, the more accomplished s/he will be in this other activity; the more established s/he will be with an alternate group. Examples include: local city-wide sports teams, YM/YWCA, JCC, gymnastics, martial arts, local theatre groups, skating, etc. Participation in these groups will give her/him diverse friendship circles, making more than one social network available to them.
- Keep a log (or encourage your child, or a friend to keep a log) of the incidents and episodes that happen, and when they happen (date, time). Who is involved, and what–if any–actions were taken? What were the responses? Keep a record of just the facts. This makes you pro-active. You are creating an invaluable record which is capable of informing future interventions, should they become necessary. Patterns emerge, which may be revealing on many levels. Documentation enables organizations (especially schools) and/or individuals in authority to act.
- Encourage your daughter or son to keep a journal or diary which chronicles the events from THEIR perspective. Promote THEIR telling of THEIR story—how they felt, what they wish they could’ve said or done at that moment. Research has shown that so-called ‘expressive writing’–journaling traumatic events–has all-around mental and physical health benefits [LINK TO Research Page]
- Continue to ask questions when your child rejects your overtures with eye-rolling, accusations of prying, or a closed bedroom door. Statements such as “I’m FINE’ or ‘you won’t understand anyway’ should not be allowed to end all communication. Keep asking questions. “What movie is a ‘must-see’ (and why)??, ‘what concert is everyone going to try to get tix to’, etc. Avoid yes/no questions, and stay in the conversation. Even monosyllabic answers can familiarize you with her tastes and her reality.
- Do not simply ignore phrases like ‘as if that’s going to bother me’, ‘like I care’, ‘whatever’, or other expressions of indifference. They may be an indication that your child is shutting down and numbing herself to the pain. Keep talking. Rephrase questions. Do not hound your child, but let her know you are there, and her statements or actions are not going to send you away.
TRY NOT TO:
- Try not to intervene until necessary. Support and console y our child in ways which encourage and empower her / him to alter the dynamics of the situation (see, above). This may not be possible, but the effort must be made. This will reinforced to your child your confidence in her/his ability to ahndle her/his life. The ‘code of silence’ must be done judiciously, discretely, with someone you feel is approachable and receptive. The action you take should not create a backlash which makes the situation worse.
- Try not to trivialize your child’s pain. Phrases like ‘no-one will remember this next week’, ‘you’ll make other friends’, ‘s/he wasn’t a good friend gto you anyway’, ‘why do you let this bother you—you know it isn’t true’, or ‘it isn’t the end of the world’ all miss the point. A bullied child has suffered a psychic wound and such “advice” only makes her question her own feelings, and/or drives the pain underground where it may fester. [[LINK to RESOURCES on GRIEF]]
- Try not to assume you know how your child feels. Adolescent society is full of nuances and connotations which only a few ‘privileged’ adults can intercept and interpret. Combine this with the self-consciousness of all adolescents–especially those who are victimized–and the extent of their victimization and psychic distress is something you don’t fully know. Try not to inadvertently minimize and reduce her pain by empathizing with (and simultaneously dismissing) her suffering with the phrase ‘I know how you feel.’ Acknowledge you don’t know, but you do know how you felt when something similar happened to you, and share your experience.
- Try not to assume that what you are hearing from your child (however terrible) is the whole story. Or offers an objective interpretation of the events. While s/he may have been victimized, imagine what your child tells her peers about your disagreements. While your child is suffering, and while their perspective is integral to understanding their pain, the story of ‘what happened’ may be filled out and shaded a bit differently by the input of others.
- Try not to take your child’s failure to confide in you, or rejections of your norms and ‘solutions’, personally. Their issues are not about you, but about their relationship to social groups (even though you may consider their friendship choices and/or social skills a reflection on you).
AS A BYSTANDER, YOU CAN be aware that (pre) teens listen to other teens. Friends can stand up for friends–in many small ways:
- B 2 busy 2 b part of an audience 2 taunting and public humiliation. Walk away–and perhaps convince someone else who is watching to leave with u.
- Don’t b part of the network that spreads gossip. Let it stop with u.
- Don’t sign ‘petitions’–just don’t get involved.
- Create a distraction. Suggest everyone go shoot hoops, go 2 the mall, watch something on you tube, or do something that will draw interest away from the bullying that is ‘in-progress.’
- Don’t participate in cyberbullying.
- Do not assume that someone else will take responsibility for telling an authority, should a situation clearly be out of hand. When everyone assumes someone else will tell (so-called ‘diffusion of responsibility’) no-one gets involved
Standing outside the tide of aggression changes the dynamics of a situation. When you do not get pulled in to laughing along with everyone else or spreading the ‘juicy’ news, you signal the victim that not everyone agrees with the aggressing clique.