What Parents Want You to Know About Bullying | By: Kim Gulbrandson The topic of bullying can be a sensitive one for parents, especially when talking about our own children. That’s why the stories I share in this post are extra special. Sadly, I know many parents whose children have experienced some form of bullying. I am grateful to those who took the time to speak with me about their personal, heartfelt experiences. When I asked those who chose to tell their story what they wanted others to know, they said: “I want others to learn from our story what I never knew before it happened to us.” “I need people to understand what it is like when kids are bullied, and how awful it is.” “Don’t ignore it. Listen to your child.” “As parents, we are advocates. We make a difference.” In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, I’ll tie in my own takeaways with the hope that others who are currently or may someday be involved in such situations can build strength from these families. To maintain privacy, names are removed. Only parts of the full stories are shared here. “Last year, my son would come home and tell me about a group of kids that were mean to him. I’d just tell him to ignore it, or to think of the positive side of things. It got to a point where he was sad a lot, and he didn’t want to go to school. So, I started asking him more questions about it. I met with the social worker, the principal, and his teacher a few times and shared what I knew, and that’s when I realized it was bullying. They had no idea it was happening, so I’m glad I talked to them. The bullying stopped, and he eventually started liking school again.” This mother’s bullying story reveals three big takeaways. First, bullying happens often. Second, adults don’t typically know about it. Third, by asking good questions we can get the information we need to help stop the bullying. By asking the questions and talking to the school, this mother brought the bullying to light. Her questions also helped to identify that the bullying was happening during lunch and study hall, so the adults could take action to help prevent the bullying. Adults at the school increased their presence in these areas, and they worked with the student to adjust his schedule, ensuring he was in a different lunch period from the bullying students. “The principal at my son’s school called me one day. She told me he was having issues with another student, and that she sat them down together to talk it out. It sounded like the situation was solved, but it wasn’t. Things got worse. A week later, in one of the school stairways, that same kid and his friends pushed my son around and took his backpack…” One constant element of bullying is that there is unequal power. The power differential may be in the form of popularity, age, number of people, or physical size, to name a few possibilities. This is one of the reasons why, when bullying is suspected or confirmed, it’s important to meet separately with the person being bullied and the person doing the bullying. When meeting with them together, the person being bullied is not likely to say much, for fear of retaliation. Make sure students in the school know retaliation is not supported, and have a coordinated response to retaliation. “Last summer, the high school invited parents to an event on bullying. I decided to go. After the talk, they gave us each a book on bullying. I learned so much about what to do if I think my kids experience bullying…” Both parents and schools can be more effective in addressing bullying when they work together to support each other. To learn more about bullying prevention and how to help kids prepare for and be safe in bullying situations, visit our resources page. For parent-specific resources (and an excellent experience for kids) get to know Captain Compassion: The Bullying Prevention Super Hero!