8 Tips to Helping Middle School Students Deal with Bullying
The internet has brought the old problem of bullying into a new age as social media networks provide new opportunities for people who enjoy putting others down. At Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School, we choose to be proactive about the subject. Our students sign an anti-bullying pledge and the topic is addressed in both mentoring and through guest speakers. With a small school community, we can head off potential issues and keep a careful watch on relationships.
Still, while that provides a great environment for our students, there are many students who are not in such a safe school. I’m reminded by my own daughter’s day-to-day experiences (she is still in elementary school) that we as parents need to be watchful and prepared. So I asked Middle School teacher Mike Mellish and R-MA’s clinical counselor Dr. Connie Richards to share their advice for dealing with bullying—and while I asked them for advice in helping middle school-aged students, the advice they gave really applies to almost any age:
- Listen! Take what they are saying seriously -- it's not just a phase. Listening and taking them seriously is the best place to start.
- Recognize the signs-- One of the most difficult and humiliating times in a child's life can be admitting to being bullied. It is important for parents, teachers, and mentors to watch for a child who becomes withdrawn, depressed, or suddenly develops an aversion to certain activities they used to enjoy. It could be that a child exhibiting these new-found traits might be the victim of bullying.
- Help your child learn how to solve the issue/problem themselves if they are not in danger of being physically harmed. Teach them the skills they need--these will be lifelong. Give them words they can say and then role-play with them. We don't necessarily have to solve every problem for them, but we do need to teach the skills they need.
- Get other adults involved if necessary -- teacher, coach, principal, etc.
- Always address it immediately, especially if there has been physical violence -- this can be a criminal offense.
- Be aware--Although emotional violence is equally as concerning, it's not always "visible"—so remember to go back to #1 and #2 regularly.
- Console and encourage--Remind the target of bullying that they are not alone and that the majority of people on Earth at some point will be the target of some form of discrimination. Let them know that the longer it takes them to reach out for help, the longer their problem will fester emotionally.
- Research. “There are lots of great websites about what parents and kids can do, just google ‘bullying,’" said Dr. Richards.
Have a great week…and don’t forget to listen!