LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - With a growing effort to spot bullying and stop it before it becomes dangerous, this 3 day weekend ahead of us is a great time for parents to talk to kids and get their reaction to school and what's going on socially.
Dr. Sarah Wakefield is the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.
She says teasing can be a part of a normal relationship. In contrast, she says, ‘Bullying is a concentrated effort to make somebody feel worse about themselves or to make them feel unsafe.” However, she adds that some kids may not realize their teasing has crossed the line into bullying.
So how do you teach a kid the difference?
She says it’s important for parents to empower a child. She explains, “If they come and say someone is bullying me. Someone was mean to me. We want to first say, ‘Hey, what did you say back? Did you use your big voice? Did you say, ‘Stop it. I don’t like it when you do that.’ Give them some tips on what to do.”
Most of us have experienced that feeling of coming up with a comeback comment – later - after the mean moment has passed.
Dr. Wakefield suggests role playing with your child to look at how they might react quickly if it happens again. Even if role playing doesn’t work, she says, it’s important to empathize. “When parent’s say, ‘it’s ok. It happens to everybody. You’ll get over it.” Nobody likes to hear that it’s ok for someone to be mean to them. Instead, say, ‘oh I wouldn’t like it if somebody said that to me either. Really empathize.”
There are many things parents can do to offer support and help a child stand up to a bully or diffuse the situation. Likewise, Dr. Wakefield says there are things parents can say that could instead make the whole thing worse. She explains, “I will help you. I’m here to help you. That’s a very different feeling for that kid than saying, ‘You can deal with it. Just be tough. That shouldn’t affect you.’ That latter series of statements tell them, ‘I’m not here for you. You’re on your own.’ And that isolation is the most dangerous part of the bullying.”
She says it’s true that kids are resilient and they do get over stuff.
But it’s more important to remember… that’s not what they want to hear when they come to a parent seeking support.
Dr. Wakefield has many more suggestions in the attached interview.