One of my many experiences in treating adolescents and teens has to do with the subject of bullying. It seems that bullying in schools through text and notes as well as cyber-bullying has become an epidemic with the anonymity that the internet and texting provides.
Adolescents, teens and most adults have become victim to a mentality that it is easier to stay behind a computer or speak through someone else in order to say what we are really thinking. The things that I have heard said about teens in my sessions with clients come from their own peers as well as strangers and sadly, even their friends' parents.
It has become apparent to me through counseling that there is a sense of helplessness that parents feel when their teen is being bullied or harassed whether because of inattention from the school or not being enlightened about the acts in the first place. Teens have expressed that being bullied is embarrassing and shameful and many do not want to include their parents in their "battles".
Parents who have genuine concern for their adolescents and teens have asked many times what they can do to help eradicate the problem as well as prevent it from happening again. "How can I take this pain away from her/him and protect them"? That is a commonly asked question. I have listed a few tips that I feel are important to help you as a parent feel empowered to help your child.
1. Talk with your child on a regular basis
Discuss how their day was, how the kids are treating them, any struggles they may be having and let them know you are a safe place to fall if they need to talk. Keeping open lines of communication will help your child learn how to cope with difficulties away from you.
2. Keep in close contact with the school
If you notice behavioral changes in your child such as acting out, or even isolation, it may be a sign that something is happening at school. Do not be afraid to ask the school counselor or principal about any knowledge they may have of foul play. Never do so without talking to your child first and discuss with them how it can help them.
3. Know your rights
It is your right to know what is happening to your child and you can find those things out without embarrassing your child, getting "too involved" and/or fighting their battles for them. It is okay to be kept in the "loop" about how children are acting in school, yours included.
4. Get to know other parents
Do not be afraid to talk to the parents of your child's friends. Get to know who they are, what their morals are, it may give you a glimpse or a snapshot of how their child may behave.
Bullying is a sad but common act in adolescents and teens and always has been. The forms continue to change and the language seems more harsh. Clients that have been bullied have expressed feelings of worthlessness, depression, fear of going to school and have even engaged in self-harm behaviors.
As a parent it is part of your right and responsibility to know who your child is spending their time with, if they are getting along with their peers and if not how are they coping with it. Do not be afraid to ask questions. In my experience a parent's healthy involvement in their child's social life has been an amazing asset to their coping abilities and self-esteem. My heart breaks for teens and adults who are going through bullying situations. We have all been there and at times it does feel hopeless. We are not powerless in these situations and we must remember that we can be the biggest cheerleaders and softest place to fall in our childrens' lives