Bullying has many forms like physical, verbal, emotional and so on, and can adversely affect the victim. It can cause severe emotional damage to a child and lead to loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, impaired academic performance, substance abuse, tendency to cause self-harm and so on. Although the common belief is that bullying happens only in senior classes, nothing can be further from the truth. A child can fall victim to bullying even in preschool. Here’s what you can do to help your little one deal with bullying.
1. Connect with your child: Once your child starts going to school, make it a point to talk to him and learn about the goings-on. Ask her pointed questions to help you understand what is happening around her in school.
2. Explain bullying behaviour and encourage him to report it: Although it’s difficult to explain the concept of bullying in words to a young child, there are various other ways to make him understand. Engage in role-playing and model the behaviour of a bully, read out stories where one of the characters is a bully, or point out bullying behaviour whenever you come across it while watching TV, plays or movies. Also, tell your child to immediately report any instance of bullying he comes across to his teacher.
3. Teach your child how to respond to bullying: After you have made your child understand bullying, it is important to teach her how to respond to it. Tell your child to move as a part of a group in areas where bullying happens. If she comes across a bully, she should either ignore the bully and walk away towards a safe spot, or assert herself in a respectful way through sentences like, “Please don’t speak to me like that,” or “Stop teasing me. It’s not okay to hurt anyone.” Tell her that if this doesn’t work, she should seek help from any teacher or adult who happens to be around. The most important point to teach your child is to not enter into a verbal or physical altercation with a bully.
4. Encourage confident behaviour: While you are teaching your child to talk assertively, also teach him how to appear confident. Remember, what your child says is as important as how he says it. Ask your child to stand with his shoulders squared, make eye contact with the bully, and speak in a calm but loud voice. To boost your child’s confidence, encourage him to take part in group activities that help him understand his strengths and talents.
5. Encourage your child to confide in you and seek your help: Your preschooler is a small child and there is only so much you can explain and teach her. But you can help her feel empowered by making her understand that you are always there for her. Encourage your child to talk to you and tell you about her problems. On your part, listen carefully and patiently to what she says, do a little brainstorming and come up with solutions to her problems. This will help your child understand that she can always turn to you for help.
It is not possible to root bullying out entirely, but you can teach your child how to deal with it whenever she comes across it. In addition to that, it is your duty, as a parent, to protect your child; so, don’t hesitate to stand up on his behalf. Talk to and involve school authorities and other parents to create a community that will protect your child and others from bullying. Finally, if your preschooler still faces bullying at school despite all the efforts, do not hesitate to transfer him to a different school.