Bullying is a serious issue facing youth today. On Dec. 6, 2011, the state of Michigan passed Matt's Law. This law was named after Matt Epling, a young man who was a victim of bullycide. The law gives school districts six months to develop and adopt an anti-bullying policy. As a parent, it is important to understand what is covered in your school district's policy. How is bullying addressed? Find out what type of programs or curriculum your school district is using to create a safe environment.
Bullying typically peaks in middle school. If your child tells you they are being bullied, take them seriously. But, many times they may not say anything. So, if you notice a change in their behavior or they seem to be isolating themselves, ask them what is going on. Your child may be reluctant to talk to you about being bullied, because they feel like no one can help. A child who was their friend last week may be the one bullying them this week. This change in behavior of their friend may be hard for them to understand. They may also blame themselves for being bullied.
There are three things you can do if your child tells you they are being bullied: 1. Avoid overreacting. You may want to try and "fix" things for your child, but is important that your child be part of the solution. After you have heard what your child has to say, brainstorm solutions that will allow them the opportunity to address the issue. The solutions will be more effective if your child has been part of creating them.
2. Follow through. Children need the help of a parent or an adult, because bullying many times is something they cannot stop on their own. If your child stops talking about bullying, don't assume that it has stopped. If you've decided on a strategy, ask your child how it worked out. Make sure they realize what is happening to them is not their fault. No one deserves to be bullied.
3. If you are a parent of an elementary school child, you can visit PACERKidsAgainstBullying.org, a bully prevention website. The site educates students about bully prevention and provides methods to respond to bullying situations. The site features an animated cast of characters, information, celebrity videos, webisodes, games, animation, contests and other activities. Parents and professionals will find helpful tips, intervention strategies and resources for use at home or school.
PACER also launched an animated, interactive bullying prevention website for teens. The site features student produced videos, interactive role plays, animated activities, video interviews, music, poetry and stories written by students. You can access it through the site above with the link "Site 4 Teens."
Listen to your child and engage school administrators when needed. It is important for your child to remain safe as they navigate through this difficult time.
Editor's note: This article was written by Copper Country Mental Health Institute Director Taryn Mack.