In 2007, two grade 12 students decided to intervene in support of a grade 9 student in their school who had been harassed for wearing a pink shirt at school. To make a statement against bullying and show support for the victim, they bought some pink shirts and encouraged other students to wear them to school the next day. The idea took off like wild fire. Since then, Pink Shirt Day is celebrated every February to protest bullying.
According to some reports, bullying is starting at younger ages and has become more frequent and aggressive. Advances in technologies have allowed bullying to take place through electronic devices (cyber-bullying) without face-to-face contacts, affording greater ease and anonymity to bullies while causing greater damage to the victims.
Bullying is not your average teasing. It is usually meant to be hurtful. Children who are exposed to bullying on a regular basis can experience significant psychological damage over time. Yet, victims don’t always share what is happening to them. For that reason, parents are encouraged to be vigilant, look for signs, and prepare their kids to deal with its potential occurrence.
According to Dr. Michele Borba, who developed a proposal on how to end school violence, parents are waiting too long to teach their children critical skills. She states “bullying is learned and preventable”.
Some warning signs:
First question to ask: “has my child’s normal behavior, attitude, or appearance, changed recently?” (e.g., increased fighting with siblings, rude to parents, quieter and not interacting as much).
Reluctance to go to school (feel sick more, teens may drop out or miss classes) and not want to take part in social activities/events with other students.
Begin to lose money, personal items, or need to continually replace pens or other items, or come home with torn clothes, broken possessions, or physical injuries.
Upset after using the computer at home.
Start talking now. It is very important to get your child ready by talking about bullying before it happens. Let them know they can come to you if he or she has a problem. Talk about all sorts of bullying: physical, cyber, emotional, etc. Make sure they understand the definition of bullying.
Don’t rescue your child. Teach your child skills which empower them as much as possible to cope with the situation. Work collaboratively with your child. Offer to help, develop safety plans, encourage them to talk to a supportive friend.
Be familiar with your child’s schedule, friends, and activities.
Teach them to be assertive, to speak up and use a firm voice so they can stand up for themselves, how to walk and stand with confidence, head high and shoulders back.
Give them tips to protect themselves: staying in close proximity to adults or older kids; walking towards others if they need help. Role play asking for help.
Tell your kid about areas where bullies prey so they can avoid them or minimize their exposure.
Train your child how to stay calm and not react to bullies ‘comments.
Be prepared to advocate for your child (talking to a teacher or principal). Never promise to keep that information confidential.