Create a Culture of Trust
Your children look to you for guidance in more ways than you might know. Make a point to talk openly, patiently, and frequently about difficult subjects like bullying, and they’ll learn to turn to you when they see or experience something that worries them.
Engage in Age-Appropriate Conversations
For younger children, this could mean asking if your child has ever seen a classmate bully or “be mean” to another student. Follow up by asking what the bully did and how the student reacted to the bullying. Parents might also ask: “How did it make you feel to see someone being bullied?” or “Do you think there’s something you could have done?”
Older students may have concerns about reporting bullying because of a fear that they will be the next target. As students approach middle school and high school, they may be curious about how bullying plays into issues such as cliques or sexting, and even broader issues, like prejudice. Encourage your child to talk about how he or she feels, and discuss when to safely take action. At this age, it is equally important for parents to listen attentively while their children work through their feelings on these topics.
Role Play and Role Model
Parents can help children strategize responses to bullying by creating skits in which the child acts out the role of the target or a bystander. After the role-playing scenario, take a few minutes to discuss the exercise, and ask the child about his or her “performance.” Parents also can foster kindness and empathy by encouraging their children to perform random acts of kindness for others and modeling such behavior for their children.
Share Age-Appropriate Reading Material
There are a number of good books and resources for all ages about bullying, kindness, and inclusion. Here are some of our favorites:
- Tattlin’ Madeline by Carol Cummings Ph.D. [K – 1st grade]
Talks about the differences between “tattling” and reporting
- The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan Berenstain [K – 1st grade]
Explores good and bad ways to deal with bullying
- One by Kathryn Otoshi [2nd – 3rd grade]
A story about kindness and inclusion
- Billy Bully by Ana Galan [2nd – 3rd grade]
A story about being a good friend
- Captain McFinn series by Phyllis C. Cafaro [3rd – 4th grade]
Addresses how to get along with others; includes an app for smartphones and tablets
- Middle School Confidential by Annie Fox M.Ed. [Ages 11 – 14]
A series of books that help middle schoolers learn important life skills; includes apps for smartphones and tablets
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli [6 – 8th grade]
A novel about fitting in and being yourself