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Stop bullying now

October 6, 2008

by Jen Bakken

The PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Center is a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with disabilities from birth through 21 years old.

Located in Minneapolis, it serves families across the nation, as well as in Minnesota. PACER Center has many resources available to parents to help make decisions about education and other services.

With the mind-set that it takes a community to prevent bullying, it has been conducting the third annual National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week from Oct. 5 to Oct. 11.

The week is sponsored by PACER Center’s National Center for Bullying Prevention and co-sponsored by the American Federation for Teachers, National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, National Education Association, National PTA, and School Social Work Association of America.

A bullying prevention web site has been launched at www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org. Another site for middle and high school students will begin in January of 2009.

The school year is in full swing, and unfortunately that means many students will become targets of bullying.

Children may not talk to the adults around them for fear of being blamed for the bullying, not being believed, or because they are ashamed.

It is a very difficult situation for children to deal with at any age. Sometimes adults want to believe that bullying isn’t happening around them – but chances are that it is.

The difficulty for children and adults alike, is knowing what they can do to help solve the problem.

On the web site www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.org, it suggests there are things that just don’t work, such as asking the victim to solve the problem, telling them to be assertive, or blend in.

Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me?”

Well, let me just say, that with three children, I know from personal experiences that words do hurt – and can hurt deeply. Sometimes, those hurtful words lead to social exclusion or physical bullying, and now, children can fall victim to cyber bullying as well.

Area schools have anti-bullying policies and curriculum in place, but parents play a huge role in this situation too.

Here are some suggestions from the US Department of Health and Human Services web site, www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.org.

Talk with children in your family about bullying and your expectations about their behavior. Children and youth should know that you expect that they:

• do not bully others,

• are helpful and kind to children and youth who are bullied, and

• report bullying that they experience or witness to you or other adults.

Print out the fact sheets from the above web site, and discuss them with children in your family.

Review the listing of children’s books, videos, and other materials listed in the resource kit on the web site. These can be great tools to help talk with your children in your family about bullying.

Take a look at the 12 webisodes on the web site and discuss them. Ask children if they have seen similar instances of bullying at school or in the community.

Remember that actions, sometimes, speak louder than words. Be sure that you treat others in a respectful way, and that you don’t inadvertently model bullying behavior yourself.

Be watchful for possible signs of bullying among children in your family.

Talking openly with children and youth in your home is important, but often children are reluctant to talk with adults about bullying that they’ve experienced or taken part in.

Be watchful for behaviors and other signs that your child might be involved in bullying.

Read warning signs that a child is being bullied for a list of possible warning signs that a child is being bullied.

Read about children who bully for more about characteristics of children who bully, risk factors for bullying, and common myths about children who bully. Take immediate action if you suspect bullying.

If you suspect that a child in your family is being bullied, read what to do if your child is being bullied for information on possible next steps to take. The fact sheet “How to Talk with Educators at Your Child’s School: Tips for Parents of Bullied Children” also may be helpful.

If you suspect that a child in your family is the victim of electronic or online bullying, review this information on cyber bullying

If you think a child in your family has bullied (or is continuing to bully) siblings or peers, review the fact sheet, from their web site, on children who bully for suggestions about how best to address this behavior.

If your child has been a witness or bystander to bullying, find out more about the bullying incident. Discuss with your child how they can help another child who is bullied. Depending on where the bullying took place and its severity, report the bullying school authorities, parents, or other adults in charge.

Work with school personnel and other adults in your community to prevent and reduce bullying.

All adults in a community have a responsibility to help keep kids safe and stop bullying among children and youth. How can you get involved?

– Work with others in your community to raise awareness about bullying.

– Download and distribute free fact sheets from the campaign’s resource kit on their web site.

– Become a resource to local schools. Share with them resources from the campaign web site.

As a community let’s do what we can to stop bullying now.