+ Teachers: Reach Out to Parents of Bullied Students

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An article in ASCD  Express by Allan Beane and Michelle Law has offered numerous tips for parents of bullied students.

They write

As educators, you probably requently have parents contact you because their child is being bullied…

First, you should assure them that you will immediately investigate their child’s situation.  Then, you should discuss what might help their child be safe from bullying while you investigate.

They suggest that perhaps the child needs to avoid certain areas on school property at certain times; perhaps the school might increase supervision in high risk areas where this child needs to be.  Tell parents to make sure the child talks to an adult, such as a supportive teacher, every day.

Adults, both parents and teachers, need to stay vigilant.  Look for the following warning signs and symptoms and address problems quickly.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Note that for a behavior to be labeled bullying, it must be persistent (repeated over time); it must be intentionally designed to hurt or frighten the child.  and the bully must have power and control over your child.
  • Let the child know that NO ONE deserves to be bullied.
  • Stay calm.
  • Be sensitive; your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Determine what happened, who was involved, when and where it happened.  Importantly, keep a log of this information. 
  • Express confidence that everyone — you, the adults at school, and the child himself — will be able to find a solution.
  • Ask the child to write her thoughts and feelings down in a journal or notebook.  This is a great way to discharge emotional pressure and anxiety.
  • Explain that bullies want to hurt and control.  So it is best — even though difficult — not to show that the behavior hurts.
  • Let him know that it is perfectly normal to feel hurt, fear and anger.
  • Avoid being a “fix-it” parent.  Don’t call parents; it’s usually not effective. 
  • Don’t tell your child to retaliate.  It’s against the rules, and retaliation frequently makes the bullying worse and more prolonged.  And bullies are usually more powerful than their victims.
  • Don’t tell your child to ignore the bully; that doesn’t usually work.
  • Teach your child to be assertive but not aggressive.
  • Don’t promise not to tell anyone.
  • Ask for a copy of the district’s anti-bullying policy.
  • Report all physical assaults to the school and to police.
  • Take pictures of all injuries.  Hold a ruler next to injuries to show their sizes.  Keep a record of all medical treatment, including counseling, expenses and related travel expenses.
  • Be patient; some situations take more time to investigate and stop than others.
  • Involve your child in activities inside and outside school.  High-quality friendships can blossom when a child is involved in activities she enjoys.
  • Monitor your child’s whereabouts and his friendships.
  • Involve your child in discovering solutions to her bullying situation.
  • Watch for signs of depression and anxiety; don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling.
  • Ask an older student with good morals to mentor your child.
  • Don’t give up.

VICTIM WARNING SIGNS

Some of these warning signs are very serious.  Pay attention.

  • Sudden decreased interest in school (wants to stay home).
  • Sudden loss of interest in favorite school activities (band, swim team…)
  • Sudden decrease in quality of schoolwork.
  • Wanting a parent to take her to school instead of riding the bus.
  • Seems happy on weekends, but unhappy, preoccupied or tense on Sundays before school the next day.
  • Suddenly prefers the company of adults.
  • Frequent illnesses, such as headaches, stomach aches.
  • Sleep issues: insomnia or nightmares.
  • Comes home with unexplained scratches, bruises or torn clothing.
  • Talks about avoiding certain areas of the school or neighborhood.
  • Suddenly becomes moody, irritable, or angry; begins to bully others (siblings or children in the neighborhood.
  • Seeks the wrong friends in the wrong places (drug users, cult-like groups, gangs).
  • Talks about being sad, anxious, depressed or having panic attacks.
  • Wants to stay home at night.
  • Wants to stay home on weekends.
  • Self-mutilates.
  • Talks about suicide.

Source: Article on ASCD Express (Vol. 6, No. 13) by Allan L. Beane and Michelle Law.  Beane is founder and CEO of Bully Free Systems LLC, a program that is used in schools and districts nationally.  The Bully Free Program also offers books and resources.  Law is a special education teacher in Woodward, OK. She is a coordinator of the Bully Free Program at Cedar Heights Elementary.

ASCD was formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  It is a membership organization that develops programs, products and services essential to the way educators learn, teach and lead.  Visit http://www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.

Tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com .

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