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What Parents Should Know About Bullying

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Helping Your Child

If your child is experiencing bullying…

When you discover your child is being bullied, you may feel a variety of emotions, from anger to fear to sadness. These reactions and emotional responses are natural for parents who want their child to feel valued, protected, and loved. To become an effective advocate for your child, it is important to acknowledge your emotions and then focus on developing an action plan to help your child.

1. Talk with your child.

When you first talk with your child about bullying, be prepared to listen without judgment, and provide a safe and supportive place where your child can work out his or her feelings. Children may not be ready to open up right away as they, too, are dealing with the emotional effects of bullying and may be feeling insecure, frightened, vulnerable, angry, or sad. When your child begins to tell their story, just listen and avoid making judgmental comments. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the situation, such as how long the behavior has been happening, who has been involved, and what steps have been taken. Encourage your child to talk, and let them know they are not alone and you are there to help.

Make sure your child knows:

  1. It is NOT their fault. They are not to blame.
  2. They are NOT alone. You are here to help.
  3. It is the adults’ responsibility make the bullying stop.
  4. Bullying is never okay and they have the right to be safe.
  5. No one deserves to be bullied.
  6. They deserve to be treated with respect.
  7. They have the right to feel safe at school.

Other Resources

  • Talk to Your Child About Bullying This resource helps parents prepare themselves to talk with their child about bullying and includes tips on how to respond to their child’s questions and emotions.
  • Safety in the Online Community: A conversation with your 13-year-old about Facebook and Instagram This guide helps parents talk with their teens about using the popular social networking sites Facebook and Instagram. It covers setting up a new account, safety tips, and frequently asked questions. This guide is accompanied by discussion points for talking with your child and steps for responding to harassing content.
  • Reasons Teens Don’t Tell This page provides reasons why teens may not tell a parent or an adult about a bullying situation.
  • Advice Gone Wrong When talking about bullying, it’s important for parents to give good advice and provide solutions that work. This page shares examples of advice that adults should avoid giving to teens.
  • Speaking Up About Being Bullied Isn’t “Tattling — and Our Kids Need to Know the Difference Younger children often don’t recognize bullying behaviors, and may be afraid they’ll be called a tattletale, or worse, if they tell an adult. It’s especially important to talk openly with your young child about bullying behavior, and to explain the difference between tattling and telling.

2. Support and empower your child.

After hearing your child’s story, empower them to create an action plan to help stop the bullying. Talk with your child about ways you can support them as well as intervention strategies they can use, such as working with the school or advocating on their own. Creating a plan that works with your child’s strengths and abilities can help build self-confidence and resilience. Make sure to share these agreed-upon strategies with those involved in your child’s life, such as teachers, coaches, and other adults who interact with your child on a daily basis.

Reactions to Avoid

  1. Telling your child to stand up to the bully. This can imply that it is your child’s responsibility to handle the situation. While there is a ring of truth to this statement (being assertive is often a good response) sending your child back into the situation without further information will probably cause more harm. A more effective response is to brainstorm options with your child about what you can do as a team to respond to the situation.
  2. Telling your child to ignore the bully. This is easier said than done. Your child has probably tried ignoring the situation, which is a typical response for children. If that method had been effective, however, there wouldn’t be a need for the child to seek your help. It is difficult to ignore someone who is sitting behind you on the bus or next to you in class. In addition, if the student who is bullying realizes that their target is purposefully “ignoring” them, it can actually ignite further bullying, since that response provides the sense of power and control the student seeks.
  3. Taking matters into your own hands. A normal gut response from parents is to try to fix the situation and remove their child from harm. For example, a parent might call the parents of the student who is bullying, or directly confront the bully. Remember, when children tell a parent about bullying, they are looking for the parent to guide them to a solution that makes them feel empowered. Involve them in the process of determining next steps. Typically, calling the other parent or directly confronting the bullying student is ineffective.

Other resources:

3. Learn your rights.

Check your state’s legislation on bullying. Each state has different laws and policies on bullying, along with requirements on how schools should respond. Visit StopBullying.gov to find out the laws your state has put in place. Also, check your state’s Department of Education website for a state Safe Schools Office, which can be a great local resource to learn more about your state and school’s policy. You may also want to look up your child’s school’s policy on bullying.

4. Think through who else should be involved.

In addition to being supportive and empowering your child to write down a plan, it can be very helpful to document the steps that you plan to take or have already implemented. Written records provide a history of incidences and responses, which can be very helpful when addressing the issue with school administrators or law enforcement. You should also create a strategy for how to involve others that can help your child. This might include determining who you will contact at school, what you plan to ask them, and how you will be involved. Other options include contacting a guidance counselor or other health professionals for advice. If the situation doesn’t change, your plan might include steps to contact local law enforcement or legal counsel.

Other resources:

  • Record Keeping and Bullying When a child is a target of bullying, parents need to document the events and develop a record (or history) of what is happening to their child. This record is useful when talking with school educators, law enforcement personnel, or other individuals who may need to assist parents in intervening against bullying. Data is important. Remember – if it is not in writing, it does not exist.

5. Get involved in the community.

Bullying touches many lives and it might be happening to others in your child’s school or community. You can help by raising awareness through community events, attending workshops or trainings in your community, or sharing information with others.

Opportunities include:

If your child with disabilities is experiencing bullying…

1. Prevalence

Studies have found that children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. Parents, educators, and other adults are the most important advocate that a student with disabilities can have and they play an important role in these bullying situations.

Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities - Top 10 Facts for Parents, Educators and Students This handout provides an overview of important facts about students with disabilities and bullying for parents, educators, and students.

Bullying and Disability Harassment in the Workplace: What Youth Should Know Bullying doesn’t just happen at school – it can also happen at work. Help your teen learn what to do if they’re being bullied in their workplace.

2. Laws and Policy

As a parent of a student with disabilities, it’s important to know about the federal laws and resources specifically designed for your child’s situation. Parents have legal rights when their child with a disability is the target of bullying or harassment related to their disability. According to a 2000 Dear Colleague Letter from the Office of Civil Rights, “States and school districts also have a responsibility…to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to eligible students with disabilities. Disability harassment may result in a denial of FAPE under these statutes.” Under these federal laws, schools are required to respond to harassment or bullying of a student with a disability. The school must provide immediate and appropriate action to investigate, communicate with targeted students regarding steps to end harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, and prevent harassment from recurring. If the school is not taking necessary action, parents may consider filing a formal grievance with the Office of Civil Rights.

Learn more about laws and policy > > >

3. IEP and Bullying

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be a helpful tool in developing a bullying prevention plan for students with disabilities. Remember, every child receiving special education is entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), and bullying can sometimes become an obstacle to receiving that education. The IEP team, which includes the parent, can identify strategies that can be written into the IEP to help stop bullying. When appropriate, it may be helpful to involve the child in this decision-making process.

IEP and Bullying Students with disabilities who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which can be a helpful tool in a bullying prevention plan. This handout provides more information on the IEP and bullying.

4. More Ideas

Peer Advocacy This is a program designed to train students to speak out on behalf of other students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It is a unique approach that empowers students to protect those targeted by bullying and to provide social inclusion opportunities.

Helpful Resources for Students with Disabilities Books, videos, and stories are powerful ways to share messages of inclusion, acceptance, and understanding. We’ve compiled a variety of resources that you can share with your classroom and follow up with thoughtful group discussion.

If your child shows bullying behavior…

1. Talk with your child.

Many parents are surprised to learn that their child is showing bullying behavior. Often, they have no idea that their child is exhibiting these behaviors. If you find out your child is bullying, it’s important to know that bullying is a behavior and that behavior can be changed. Students bully for many reasons, including peer pressure or being bullied themselves. Your child may not realize how much they are harming someone, what impact their actions are having on another child, or they may not label their behavior as bullying.

The first step is to talk with your child about why they are bullying. This conversation should allow your child to explore how they may be feeling, to speak up if they are being bullied by someone else, and to talk about other factors that may be leading to this behavior.

What If Your Child IS the Bully? Could your child be bullying others? Would you know? Once you found out, would you know what to do? Here is some information that can help.

2. Try to understand your child’s feelings and show that you hear what they are telling you.

Help your child understand how others feel when they are bullied and let them know that everyone’s feelings matter. Role playing can be helpful to teach your child different ways of handling situations, along with helping them understand how their behavior is impacting someone else.

What Do You Do if Your Child Bullies? Seeing your child as the victim of bullying behavior can be heartbreaking. But so can witnessing your child bullying another. So what do you do?

3. Be realistic. It takes time to change behavior.

Be patient with your child as they learn new ways of handling feelings and conflict. Provide praise and recognition when your child handles conflict well or finds a positive way to deal with their feelings. This type of positive reinforcement goes a long way!

More resources

Parents of Elementary School Students
Visit PACER’s Kids Against Bullying website with your child and check out the following page:

Parents of Middle and High School Students
If your teen is demonstrating bullying behavior, encourage them to visit PACER’s Teens Against Bullying website and check out the following pages:

  • Initiating Bullying? This page features reasons why teens may think bullying is okay and the reality behind these thoughts.
  • Do You Bully? Quiz This quiz can help teens recognize that their words and actions might be bullying behavior.

If Your Child Witnesses Bullying Behavior…

1. Let your child know how powerful they are.

Nearly 60 percent of bullying situations end when a peer intervenes, giving students an important role in bullying prevention. However, many students are unsure how to take the first step. As a parent, it’s important to have the discussion with kids and teens about the power they have to help others.

2. Tell them not to join in.

The simplest action parents can guide their children to take is not to join in the bullying. This sends the message that they don’t agree with what’s happening and takes attention away from the person bullying. Your child can also help by telling an adult about the bullying, since the student who is being bullied might not be able to do it themselves. When discussing this action with your child, it is important to emphasize the difference between telling and tattling. Telling is done to protect yourself or another student from getting hurt, whereas tattling is done to purposely get someone in trouble.

3. Encourage them to show support for the bullied student.

Finally, one of the most effective steps you can encourage your child to take is to show support for the student being bullied. Ask your child how they would feel if they were being bullied, and how they would want someone to support them. They can show support by talking to the student being bullied, telling them that what happened wasn’t okay, or inviting the student to join them in an activity. There are many effective options, so encourage your child to do what feels right for them.

More resources

Parents of Elementary School Students
Visit PACER’s Kids Against Bullying website with your child and check out the following pages:

Parents of Middle and High School Students
If your teen witnesses bullying, encourage them to visit PACER’s Teens Against Bullying website and check out the following pages:

  • Student-Created Videos These videos help teens understand what bullying can look like and what they can do to prevent it.
  • Reach Out The more teens know about bullying, the greater their ability to prevent it. This page provides links to websites with additional insights and activities to help educate and empower teens.
  • Cyberbullying This page gives tips on how teens can protect themselves from cyberbullying, prevent themselves from bullying others, and what to do if they see cyberbullying happen.

Developing a Student Action Plan

Download


Student Action Plan Against Bullying

The student action plan is an opportunity for your child to develop a strategy to change their current bullying situation. This can be done on their own or with the help of a parent or teacher.

As a parent looking for solutions, it’s important not only to be informed, but also to have a plan. Whether your child is being bullied, witnessing bullying, or bullying others, you can help them create a plan to change their situation.

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center offers this free, downloadable plan that can be used to help your child think through their situation, to talk through how they think it could be different, and to identify the steps needed to make it happen.

In addition, these guides are helpful for talking with your child about bullying and what they can do to change the situation:

Elementary School
These visually friendly, age-appropriate guides provide helpful information on bullying to early learners:

Middle and High School
Are You Being Bullied? Quiz Bullying can happen to anyone and it’s not always easy to recognize. This quiz helps teens recognize what bullying is and if it might be happening to them.

Middle and High School Students – Bullying 101: Guide for Middle and High School Students A visual, age-appropriate 14-page guide with easy-to-understand information. The guide provides the basics for talking with teens about what bullying is and isn’t, the roles of those involved, and tips on what teens can do to address bullying situations.

Check Your Knowledge

  1. True or False: If your child is being bullied, you should avoid directly confronting the student bullying your child or their parents.

    Check Answer  

    True. A normal gut response from parents is to try to fix the situation and remove their child from harm. For example, a parent might call the parents of the student who is bullying, or directly confront the child who is bullying. Remember, when children tell a parent about bullying, they are looking for the parent to guide them to a solution that makes them feel empowered. Involve them in the process of determining next steps. Calling the other parent or directly confronting the bullying student has been shown to be ineffective.

  2. True or False: Students with disabilities are less likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.

    Check Answer  

    False. Studies have found that children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. Parents, educators, and other adults are the most important advocate that a student with disabilities can have and they play an important role in these bullying situations.

  3. True or False: Children who bully will always bully.

    Check Answer  

    False. If you find out your child is bullying, it’s important to remember that bullying is behavior and that behavior can be changed. Students bully for many reasons, including peer pressure or being bullied themselves. Your child may not realize how much they are harming someone, what impact their actions are having on another child, or they may not label their behavior as bullying.

  4. True or False: It’s doesn’t make a difference whether or not the students who witness bullying join in.

    Check Answer  

    False. The simplest action parents can guide their children to take is not to join in the bullying. This sends the message that they don’t agree with what’s happening and takes attention away from the person bullying.

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