From the Parents Perspective
When addressing the bullying issue many are quick to think of the victim, or perhaps even the bully, and the parents of the victims are almost forgotten
March 30, 2016
Advocate for both students and parents Tina Meier, founder of Megan Meier Foundation, shares the tips and tricks for parents who are going through the situations of their children being bullied. Tina’s daughter, Megan, was cyber bullied on MySpace, and eventually committed suicide, although heartbreakingly brutal and terrible to endure, Tina now uses her experiences to help other families in similar situations, which is crucial because the way in which the adults helps their child through the situation determines whether or not their child recovers from their experience, or falls victim.
“Bullying is not something that just goes away on its own, it is not something that children can just ‘work out’ without mediation, and it is not something kids will just naturally outgrow. If you know (or think) that your child is being bullied, your participation is critical to a successful outcome,” according to the Bully Project website.
It can be overwhelming for a parent in this situation; as many do not know what to do, how to help, or how to react, and what many forget is it can be just as daunting to the parent as it is the child. According to Meier, it was very sad to see her daughter be bullied, and she was unsure of what to do as a parent in this situation.
“At that point I really felt horrible,” Meier said. “I felt like as a parent I wasn’t sure what to do, because ignoring it wasn’t going to work.”
Parents respond differently towards the amount of stress, fear, and confusion this situation creates, and there are wrong and right ways to go about it. One of the first things to know not to do according to the Bully Project, is to take immediate action, or even lash out at the bully or the school, know this will not help the situation and in fact will only add more fear, panic, and uncomfortability to your child.
“It can be scary for a child to hear that a parent is planning to lash out at a peer or parent,” according to the Bully Project. “Try not to leap into action right away, but instead focus on making sure your child feels taken care of and supported. Without blaming the bully.”
According to Meier instead of taking immediate action, it is important to sit down with your child, and truly listen to their feelings, and discuss how to fix the situation.
“When a parent comes in in full force with ‘I’m going to fix, I’m going to do it, I can’t believe this is happening …’ the kid is already upset, and they’re already unsure, and now they see the parent doing the same thing,” Meier said. “The parent is supposed to be the safe place, so when everybody is kind of in an uproar it can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. It is better to ask: ‘what are some things I can do to help?’ And then I think that teen can be able to say ‘I think I can handle it on my own’ and if they say they can handle it on their own then say ‘Okay, I trust that you can, what are some of the things you’re going to plan on doing? Let’s talk about that, or is there any support I can give [to that]?”
In contrast to some parents acting too quickly and too extremely, other parents have problems with realizing the true importance and extent of the bullying their child is experiencing. Again, this is another response that only negatively effects your child, and makes them more reluctant to ask for further help. By making their problems seem small, or something they can get over, it can make the victim feel very unheard, and unhelped, according to Meier.
Meier feels that as adults, who have gone through similar things, gotten past it, and gotten older, it is harder for them to see how it could be affecting their child that drastically. They tend to dismiss the problems their children are expressing, and this is something to attempt not to do.
“What we’re doing [when we dismiss their feelings] is not really hearing our kids and really what they’re feeling…[and] kids need to just know that they are heard,” Meier said. “I would truly listen to what [they] are feeling… and I would validate [their] feelings. Even if I didn’t feel it was that serious, or I didn’t feel a certain way about it, that is not a situation for my feelings. What matters [is] how certain things make another person feel, and that is how people know they are heard.”
According to Meier in some cases, children may not tell you or anyone at all that they are being bullied, in this instance it is up to the parent to pay attention to his/her child, and determine whether or not they feel they are being bullied. When going about asking their child if they are being bullied, it is important to be delicate with the situation, if handled incorrectly, the child will shy away, possibly even more than before.
“I’m not sure if I would even use the word bullied all the time, the word bullied, especially for high school students, is a word of weakness so a lot of kids don’t want to admit to that,” Meier said. “Teens relate to stress, pressure, rude people, they will relate to those things more so than the bully part.”
According to the Bully Project if/when your child tells you about their experiences being bullied it is important to remind them that you are thankful that they opened up to you, and you are willing to do all that you can to help. Let them know that they deserve to live a life bully free, as many times students forget this.
“Remind your child that everyone has a right to feel safe and happy at school, and applaud the courage it took to take a stand and talk to you. Make a commitment to work with both your child and the school administration to resolve the issue,” The Bully Project said.
Of course when working with the school, it is important to remember to never confront the bully themselves, or their guardians as this can in some cases, make it worse, according to Meier.
“Adults even addressing a minor is never a good idea, and if if the parent tries to address the other parent we even suggest not to do that because many times you’re going to get two different stories, from two different kids,” Meier said. “We suggest never to do that confrontation, and never as an adult adress another kid because … sometimes that comes across as a parent threatening a child.
As a parent in the situation of their child being bullied, Meier feels there are a few steps they should take in order to get through the problems effectively and easily.
“First take a deep breathe. Listen to their feelings. Document what they are saying,” Meier said. “Make some decisions on what the next steps are going to be and work with them on an action plan.”