So You Reported Bullying, Now What?

Crucial next steps in addressing bullying in your child’s life

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Once you report the bullying your child has experienced to the principal or teacher, it can be hard to know what to do next. As a parent, you are rightly worried about your child’s safety and you want the issue resolved immediately. But sometimes investigating a bullying claim can take time, which can cause you much anxiety if you do not have a clear plan of what to do next. Here are some crucial steps you need to take after your conversation with the teacher or principal.

Ask for a Safety Plan. Before you leave your meeting or end your conversation, it is important to ask the teacher or principal for a plan to keep your child safe. The plan for your child will depend on what type of bullying she is experiencing and where it takes place. For instance, if bullying is occurring in the hallways, perhaps your child will be permitted to leave class a minute early to avoid the bully. Or, if bullying is occurring in the locker room after gym, perhaps adult supervision can be increased in that area. Be sure to ask for what you feel your child needs in order to be safe. Each school will have different guidelines, so be prepared to negotiate for a solution that is effective for your child.

Set a Date for Follow Up. Be sure the principal or teacher knows that you will be following up to see what they have discovered from their investigation. Ideally, the school will be able to complete the investigation in a day or two.

Indicate the date and time that you will call back. This next meeting should bring some resolution to this issue. Although the school usually cannot tell you the exact discipline procedures because in most cases the bully is a minor, they should be able to reassure you that it is being handled. They also may be able to add additional safety measures at this point.

Be Patient. It can feel like a bullying investigation goes on forever. But it is important to remember that principals and teachers often have to review security camera footage, interview bystanders, talk with any adult witnesses and talk with the bully. This process usually takes hours. Sometimes it will even take a day or more.

Know When to Involve the Police. Bullying that involves a physical or sexual assault should always be reported to the police. Additionally, threats of violence or sexual assault also should be reported. Even contact the police if kids are encouraging your child to harm herself or insinuating that others will harm her.

Avoid Making Bullying Worse. This is not the time to gossip about the bully, spread rumors or post information about the bullying your child experienced on social media. These actions can make bullying worse for their child. Not only does this type of exposure typically embarrass your child, but it also can expose her to more bullying. Now the entire community knows what your child is experiencing and unfortunately, not everyone will be empathetic.

After you have reported bullying, your focus should be on your child and what she needs to stay safe and to heal from bullying.

Talk with Your Child. Your contact and conversations with your child should increase exponentially during this time period. Be sure you are regularly talking about her day and what is happening at school. And if possible, check in on her throughout the school day. Bullying is not something a child should navigate alone. Be there to listen and offer support. Your child and her safety should be your top priority.

Brainstorm with Your Child. While no child should have to figure out a bullying situation alone, you do want to take steps to empower your child and give her some decision-making ability in this situation. As a result, talk with her about what she would like to see happen. What ideas does she have for defending herself or standing up to the bully? How would she like to be protected from the bully at school? Kids know the school environment much better than parents, so giving them some say in how things are handled will likely result in ideas you would not think of on your own.

Take One Day at a Time. There will be good days and bad days when your child is dealing with bullying. As a result, try not to generalize the situation based on one day’s experience. One day, your child may feel really confident and in control and another day, she will be overcome with anxiety and stress. Try to be flexible and provide what she needs each day. Some days she might simply need encouragement and a pat on the back, and other days she may need a break from school.

Work on Empowerment Skills. Although the victim is never to blame for being bullied, there are usually skills that she could develop that would make her less likely to be a target next time. For instance, teaching your child to reframe the bullying can be a great coping skill. Likewise, learning how to tap into perseverance and resilience also can aid your child in overcoming bullying. Work with your child to determine where her greatest struggles are and then go from there.

Report New Bullying Incidents. It is not uncommon for bullying to escalate after it is reported. Be sure that you contact the school each and every time a new incident occurs. The teachers and administrators not only need to add this new information to the existing investigation, but they also should take additional steps to provide a safe learning environment for your child.

Determine if Outside Help Is Needed. Sometimes bullying can increase the risk of depression and suicide. If you notice signs of depression or you are concerned about suicide risks, be sure to talk with your child’s doctor. He or she can evaluate your child and recommend treatment if warranted including medication and counseling. Even if your child does not show signs of depression or an increased risk of suicide, she can benefit from talking with a counselor. Meeting with a trained counselor not only provides a safe place for your child to discuss her feelings but counselors also can provide ideas on how your child can cope with and overcome the feelings bullying causes.

Follow Up. Be sure to follow up with the principal or teacher. You want to find out how the investigation is going and what the school plans to do to keep your child safe and provide a safe learning environment. If, after several days, you feel like your child’s bullying situation is not being addressed, then consider going up the chain of command. Keep talking to school officials until the matter is addressed. 

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