For many children the struggle in the classroom isn’t academic, it is social, and in the form of bullying. The invention of social media has allowed many young people to connect with new friends, but it has also exposed them to new levels of and opportunities for bullying.

How to prevent bullying in schools?

We hear of increasingly larger numbers of students committing suicide or self-harm at the hands of bullies, so what can parents do to stop it? When is it enough, and how do we empower our children to ignore the negative words and actions of others.

Avoiding the school bully

At some point, many children will encounter a situation where they are confronted verbally or physically in a negative manner by another child or children — this is bullying. Parents should encourage their children to be open with them about social struggles they encounter at school, and teach the children methods of reducing interactions with bullies.

When possible ask the child to stay away from areas where the bullies might be, to avoid them. While this is not always possible, encourage the child when the bully is near or present, to approach or stand near an adult — this will often discourage the bullies, make them go away, or keep them from making contact.

If no adult is present, the child should try to stand or connect with other children who may be nearby because bullies like to single people out. If alone and none of the above is an option, ask the child to not get involved with the bully no matter what they say, ignore them because bullies want attention and an audience.

Avoiding the school bully

Create a signal and walk away

Depending on what is being said and how it is said, it may be very hard for a child to refrain from engaging with a bully, verbally or physically. Encourage the child to walk away, whenever possible, and tell an adult they trust. Have the child create a phrase or signal they can share with a teacher that communicates they need to walk away from the situation and have them report it; children can go to “buddy room” to wait.

Too often children feel trapped, and the only option is to try and defend themselves. Unfortunately, there is very little that a child can say to a bully that won’t feed the fire — bullies crave a response, don’t give it to them!

Documentation and mitigation

Parents should encourage the child to find an adult within the school, a person they can trust, who can document and imply methods to mitigate the interaction. Teachers can move students and incorporate classroom management techniques to keep them separated.

There should also be a classroom and school contract that defines the consequences for students who are displaying inappropriate behavior towards other students. Most schools have strict bullying policies that should be strictly enforced.

School policy and law enforcement

If the bully is aggressive enough to make physical contact, it is important that the child has a safe place they can go to and report the behavior to an adult, who should also communicate the behavior to their parents.

Physical contact between children can amount to assault and should be taken very seriously by the instructor, school, and parents of the children. In serious situations, that are not being addressed, parents may find the need to reach out to local law enforcement.

If a child is being bullied at school, any contact that takes place between parents of the children should occur with a mediator, school counselor, and administrator so that a plan can be put in place to limit the bullying behavior and interaction between the students. This may even involve moving students to new classrooms or adjust student schedules.

Dangers of social media

Social media only seems to fuel the fire for instances when bullying takes place between children. While the children jump on and continue the bullying from afar, parents are often guilty for jumping in and making the matter even worse.

No situation of a student being bullied will benefit from the discussion on social media. Stay away from social media at all costs, if something is posted about your child contact the school and local law enforcement, immediately.

Get professional help

Bullying is just as hard for the parents as it is for their children; no parent wants to see their child suffer. Working with a professional counselor can help ease the worries of the parent, provide advice on how to support their child, as well as overcome their own fears and anger.

A child who is bullied can learn empowerment techniques and work on improving self-esteem and self-worth so that bullying does not lead to potentially dangerous situations.

Every instance of bullying has potentially life-threatening consequences and should always be taken very seriously. Professional counselors, both in and out of school, can provide students a way to check in with their experiences and feelings to ensure that bullying just becomes a small “bump” on the path to their full potential, success, and happiness.

For more information on personal growth and life coaching, get in touch with Dr. Marsha Ferrick.