(BPT) - When you hear the term bullying, the thought of children heckling a student on a playground or in the classroom comes to mind. However, with the age of social media, bullying can extend far beyond the classroom, and parents may not always know what bullying looks like outside of school.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Education, bullying is defined by three core elements: Unwanted aggressive behavior, a power imbalance, and repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors. While broad, this definition includes many types of behavior that can affect your children.
While some people may want to downplay the issue, bullying is a serious problem. According to StopBullying.gov, bullied children are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, health issues and decreased academic achievement, which often follows children into adulthood. As for the bullies, they’re more likely to abuse substances and engage in violence and other risky behavior as they grow up. While you can’t prevent bullying, you can spread awareness and tackle the issue head-on by talking with your children about bullying.
This might sound like a tricky conversation to start, especially with young children. Frank Viscuso, author of “Sprinkles the Fire Dog” — a children’s book about a puppy who must overcome physical limitations, bullying and self-doubt to achieve his dream — has offered three tips for talking with your children about bullying.
Talk with your children about bullying before they ever see it, experience it or bully someone else. If there is a book like “Sprinkles the Fire Dog” or a TV show or movie they like that has an example of bullying, use this instance as a teaching moment. You can help your child understand what bullying is and how to spot it when it’s happening to them or someone else.
As your children play and go to school, make it a habit to check in on them. Ask them about their day and how they’re feeling. By providing a safe space at home for them to express themselves, your child will have more opportunities and are more likely to confide in you when they see or experience bullying.
If your child does experience or witness bullying, they may be hesitant to stand up for themselves or others. Help them become more confident by practicing what to say and do when bullying occurs.
According to the Child Mind Institute, an insulted or humiliated child will likely be stunned and not know how to respond. Help your child develop some responses ahead of time so they feel comfortable and confident to respond in the moment. This is also a fantastic opportunity to discuss who are safe peers and school staff they can confide in if the bullying occurs at school.
It may be uncomfortable to relive your own bullying, but by doing so, you are creating a positive example for your child. Whether you were bullied, were the bully or simply a bystander, your experience is invaluable.
By sharing your experiences, you’re modeling how to discuss bullying and can impart lessons you’ve learned from your youth. Share with them how it made you feel in the moment and how you think and feel about it now. These moments of vulnerability will help you grow closer to your child and in turn, they will likely feel safe to share their own experiences with you.
Using these three tips, you can take a proactive step against bullying. If you’d like to read “Sprinkles the Fire Dog” (printed on Canon varioPRINT iX series by JPS Graphics Corporation) with your child to start a conversation about bullying, visit Sprinkles the Fire Dog - Fire Engineering Books.