For kids of any age, bullying is an issue. For kids who are different in any way, it's a BIG issue. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, kids with disabilities are more likely to be bullied. While severe food allergies may not be what we think of when we think disability, that is how our kids are protected with section 504 under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kids have a hard enough time feeling different without the teasing of other kids. In the light of trying to keep our kids happy and healthy, let's talk about bullies and bullying.
The BBC Website gives a really helpful list of of a few symptoms your child may exhibit if they are being bullied. There is also helpful warning signs and symptoms over at US Department of Health and Human Services.
- Your child gets upset at the thought of going to school.
- Your child says he doesn't feel well enough to attend school everyday.
- Complains frequently of headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms.
- Your child starts to exhibit unusual behavior - they may become quiet, resentful, or more "clingy".
- Has difficulty sleeping and/or frequent bad dreams.
- Your child is depressed or weepy when she comes home for school.
Here's the list, it's not exhaustive - it's a few basic guidelines. But, you know your child. You KNOW when something's up. Here's the secret that shouldn't be...communication - is the key to disarming a bully. As mom's we want to think we can swoop in and solve a problem but this is a case where we CANNOT do it alone.
Here's where the communication begins, if you suspect your child is being bullied, sit down and talk to your lovey.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has some really great ideas for discussion starters. Subtle and direct questions to help your kiddo open up and let you know what is going on at school.
Please check out the list to help begin a conversation. Here's the key with my little people - I ask open ended questions; questions where the answer has to be more than one word. Instead of "Did your day go well?" try "What was the best/worst part of your day?". Sometimes when you let kids ramble, you stumble upon a hidden gem.
Your next course of action should be to contact your child's school. Make an appointment with his teacher. Remember to keep your "mama bear" temper in check. Right now, you are on a fact finding mission, and it won't be helpful to alienate anyone. Ask questions and listen to the answers; take notes. Information is crucial. Once you speak with your child's teacher give him or her some time to work out the issues in her classroom. You will know if what the teacher is doing is being effectual or not. If you feel like you can do it congenially, consider contacting the bully's parents. Sometimes these parents have no idea what is going on - and parents can have a profound impact.
In the meantime
Teach your kiddo about how to handle teasing when it occurs. Here are some IDEAS - this is what I've gathered from research and speaking with teachers and principals, however, please speak with your pediatrician, school counselor, religious leader or some other trusted individual who can give appropriate advice for your situation.
Here are some things that I have told Sissy.
- It is okay to say, "I don't want to play with you until you are nice to me".
- You do NOT have to allow yourself to be picked on.
- It is okay to walk away from someone who is teasing you.
- Tell your teacher, principal, Mommy - tell a grown-up.
- Many times bullies are people who feel sad on the inside, so it is important that we pray for them everyday.
- You have power! The power to say stop - the power to walk away - the power to tell an adult so they can make it stop.
If you find that your meeting with the teacher has not been effective, it's time to talk to the principal. When you speak with the principal, you may want immediate decisive action. Please be aware that most schools have a well established plan when dealing with bullying behavior. Try to be patient and allow the school to do what they have prepared for.
Remember you can always go to the superintendent and/or school board. You have channels. You have to be persistent, assertive (not aggressive) and remember that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Squeak! Find an ally in the school who can help if possible, keep speaking/emailing your school.
Good luck. If you have advice or questions please ask!