What Parents Can do to Help their Children Bullied at School or Online
Recently, there have been stories in the news about adolescents, teenagers, and college students who were the targets of bullying. Their lives ended tragically. Students repeatedly bullied these young students, because in some way or another, they stood out.
Not fitting in at school because you are overweight, underweight, too tall, too short or somehow perceived as different from the stereotypical teen, is very hard on an adolescent or teenager. As a role model, parent or mentor of a young person struggling with their body image, there are many signs you can start paying attention to that can prevent children from years of self-destructive behavior and a long-fought battle with their self-esteem.
Michele Sherman-Rothman, MA, MFT, has worked with adolescents, teenagers, and families for the past twenty years. Michele says many of her client's have expressed feelings of sadness, helplessness, and despair when their peers at school have bullied them.
When Angela was 13-years-old, she remembers kids at school telling her she was overweight. Gradually, she started to eat less and less and dropped down to ninety-five pounds and began to self-mutilate. When Mary was 12-years-old, her group of friends rejected her and she began to eat, purge, and cut herself. Crystal, 13, felt judged by her friends because she was bigger than they were. Crystal lost fifteen pounds in one year, and dropped down to ninety-two pounds, although she continued to feel fat. Katy, 14, began to binge/purge and self-mutilate after being the target of bullying.
To help you understand what signs to pay attention to, my advice is to become your child's private investigator. When you look for clues, pay attention to details, ask specific questions and get documentation. Having evidence will help you and your family when you're ready to make a case to a school superintendent, a parent, social networking site or a police officer.
Michele says there are many ways a parent can become more aware and involved in their child's life when they are the target of bullying.
1) Develop an environment that supports and encourages expression of feelings and emotions during family time and activities.
2) Ask questions about your child's day, really listening and validating their feelings
3) Educate your children about the signs of bullying, and direct them to report anything to you as soon as it happens.
4) Get to know a teacher, counselor or nurse at the school who is familiar with your son or daughter.
5) Get involved! Speak to your teen's teachers.
6) Ask teachers to notify you when they notice sudden changes in school.
7) Encourage your child to talk to someone they trust at school if they or someone they know are being bullied.
8) Help find activities and exercise they would enjoy and be good at.
9) Create a safe and secure environment, where the emphasis is not focused body image, weight, appearance, or food.
10) Know what your children are watching on TV and where they are spending their time online.