School Safety for Children
Statistically speaking, school is one of the safest places for children between the ages of 4 and 12. However, it is important to help your child become aware of potential threats to their safety, such as bullying.
Bullying includes any persistent, aggressive behavior by an individual or group toward another person. Bullying can be verbal, written, or physical. It can occur face-to-face, over the phone, or through e-mails, instant messaging ("IM-ing"), or text messaging. Bullying by e-mail or instant messaging is also referred to as cyber-bullying.
Bullying often takes place in schools. If this occurs, parents should enlist the help of school staff in addressing the problem. If your child is being bullied outside of school, it may be necessary to contact your local police and possibly even a lawyer.
If your child is a witness to bullying, encourage him or her tell a teacher. Assure him or her that this is not tattling, but rather is helping a friend. The following tips are general guidelines for dealing with bullying. However, every situation is unique and may require an alternative approach. Do the following:
- Listen to your child and try to stay calm. Ask questions in a calm voice that encourage your child to tell you as much as possible about the situation. (e.g., "And then what happened?" "How did you feel when s/he said that?" "Where did this happen?" "Who else was there?")
- Empathize with your child. Help him or her name their feelings. Show that you understand. (e.g., "That must have been scary [or embarrassing, upsetting]." "Are you feeling afraid [angry, alone, etc.]?")
- Encourage your child. Let your child know that he or she has your support them and that you have confidence in him or her. Assure your child that bullying is wrong and not his or her fault. Praise your for coming to you with the problem.
- Talk with your child's teacher or guidance counselor to discuss the situation. Establish a cooperative tone with school staff and provide as much information as you can. Be sure to ask how they will handle the situation and request that they keep you informed about what is happening at school.
- Update school staff on what your child is reporting to you at home. Talk with the parents of your child's friends to get additional information.
- Do not tell your child to ignore bullying behavior. This can make the situation worse. However, in the case of bullying through e-mail or instant messaging (cyber-bullying), it is recommended that you tell your child not to respond to any aggressive messages. However, save the messages as potential evidence.
- Do not assume your child did something to provoke the bully. This may discourage your child from talking with you about the problem.
- Do not criticize the way your child might have handled the situation. Reassure him or her that you and school staff members will help handle the situation.
- Do not advise your child to retaliate physically. This will only result in your child being punished and/or injured.
- Do not contact the parents of the bully. Talk with school staff members. If the bullying behavior is only occurring outside of your child's school and is severe, it may be necessary to contact an attorney and/or your local police for advice and or assistance.