Empower Your Kids to Start the New School Year Smart, Safe and Bully-free

Oct 19, 2015
New York - 

Bullying can be a source of major anxiety for children, so it is important for parents to teach them strategies to cope and deal with it. Dr. John Walkup, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, offers advice to help manage yourself and your child in a bullying situation.

1. Empower Your Child: The endgame is for your child to not only be a survivor of bullying, but a hero who has faced a very difficult situation, thought it through and worked it out with family, peers and school.

2. Listen to Your Child: Most kids who are getting bullied are vocal about the bullying. Be sure to let the child fully explain the situation before you offer advice or move to action.

3. Pay Attention: Some children may not talk about the bullying, but if you notice unexplained bruises, changes in their behavior or attitude towards school, carefully inquire about how the child is feeling. Make sure you listen for the whole story.

4. Be Approachable: Listen, but don’t overreact. Make sure your child is able to talk to you without feeling any pressure. Children want their parents to be cool, calm and focused on them. When parents get too upset about bullying, the child may shut down to make it easier for the parent to cope.

5. Understand the Situation: You have to understand that your child has been victimized, either emotionally or physically. Talk to your child to figure out how bullying has affected them and the nature of the interaction between your child and their bully. Move to action when you really understand what happened.

6. Support Your Child: Be cool, calm and focus on being an effective advocate for your child, but be careful to not inadvertently draw attention to your child that might set them up to be bullied further. It is critical to be effective, not just impassioned.

7. Work with the School: Alert the school about the bullying and work with the school to assure that they adequately address the issue.

8. Advise Appropriately: Bullies can feed on reactions. Help your child think of strategies for how to react to the bully. Talk to your child about the potential consequences of their reaction —whether they choose to ignore the bully, talk back to the bully or alert an authority figure—and consider when each strategy would be most appropriate. Use strategies that your child can actually do and are appropriate to his developmental level.

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