Sgt. Tom Rich on Teaching Your Kids to Respond to Bullies over Summer

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When bullying or cyberbullying happens, it can be devastating for entire families. Over the summer, when the normal protocol of “what to do when at school” is disrupted, there is a risk that children will be more likely to ignore or succumb to vicious taunts or malicious behavior.

The good news?

If you take the time to talk about how to respond to bullying over the summer with your child, you can increase the chances that your child will respond in a dignified, compassionate, and courageous way, whether they have been the target or a witness. Consider this your cheat sheet to create some teachable moments with your child before the summer starts.

Knowing When to Act

The first step to responding to bullying or cyberbullying over summer vacation is making sure your child recognizes it when it happens. If your child is a target of bullying, he likely knows by the sick, sinking feeling in his stomach, or the pain, shame or humiliation the bully causes him to feel. But your child needs to be taught to recognize bullying and cyberbullying when it happens to another child as well – bystanders with the courage to act are often the best way to stop bullies in their tracks.

Talk to your child about the difference between teasing and taunting, and laughing together vs. at someone else’s expense. You can also have your child practice “standing in someone else’s shoes.” We all have an inherent sense of empathy – help your child learn how to tap into this skill so that he is able to recognize when another child needs his help.

Establishing “Trusted Adults” in Your Child’s Life

Often, adult involvement is required in order to stamp out a situation of bullying. But if a child turns to an adult who is not trustworthy, or does not take the situation seriously, here is a good chance the consequences will get worse as a feeling of hopelessness grows in the targeted child. This is why it is important to identify responsible adults that you and your child trust to do the right thing in response to bullying or cyberbullying. A trusted adult is someone to whom your child can turn when they see something troubling. Trusted adults will listen with kindness, will help your child to take positive steps on their own, and will take action themselves when necessary. Seeing mean Vacationbehavior online or off can be overwhelming and scary. Help your child form a plan of to whom they can turn to for help.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that your child can identify bullying and has established trusted adults, it is smart to run through a few scenarios to help your child build their confidence when it comes to stopping a bully. This isn’t easy to do, even for adults – so be patient and help your child learn. Use scenarios of bullying both on or offline, and have your child practice being a target or a perpetrator. Can your child recognize the bullying when it starts? Can they find words to stand up for themselves or for their peers? Do they remember adults to whom they can turn to, and ways that they can ask those adults for help?

Summer Camp

Summer camp is a great opportunity for kids to make new friends and explore different aspects of their personality. For a bullied kid, it can be a fresh start; but for a kid who hasn’t been previously targeted, camp could pose a risk that suddenly a new bully will single them out as a target. So if your child will be heading off to summer camp, it is important to have a special conversation so that you can be sure they know how to handle it if they see or experiences bullying or cyberbullying in the new social order. Generally, the best practice will be to have your child tell a counselor right away. Make sure that they know that if the counselors don’t respond immediately or effectively, that they need to call you right away.

By creating these teachable moments with your child, you can help ensure that their summer vacation is both fun and safe.

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