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Back in the day, bullying was something you thought you didn’t have to worry about your kid encountering it at least till high school, maybe middle school. But unfortunately, bullying has made its way into the youngest grades, starting as early as kindergarten. In fact, studies show that 9 out of 10 elementary students have been bullied by their peers.

This national epidemic can have devastating traumatic effects from low self-esteem to severe depression, it’s rampant, serious, and an increasingly widespread issue that all parents should be aware of and ready to deal with.

Most people when presented with the idea of bullying, their minds immediately envision some sort of physical abuse or intimidation. Some even mistake the whole concept for teasing. However, bullying has multiple forms of harassment, all of which can be as damaging emotionally and psychologically as it can be physically.

So let’s get more specific with it. Bullying, by definition, is the act of willfully seeking to harm, intimidate, or coerce an individual who is perceived as vulnerable. Generally, bullying at school is categorized into 3 major forms: physical, verbal, and social.

Physical bullying typically involves repeated pushing, hitting, tripping, kicking, blocking, or some sort of compilation of physical pain inflecting actions.

Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying. It’s when mean, cruel, and hurtful words are used to shame or put down others. This includes name calling, making sexist or racist remarks, and abusive insults.

Last but not least, we have social bullying which is pretty common as well. This involves exclusion from groups, not talking or playing with the particular kid, spreading rumors, or overall alienating kids from social interactions and acceptance.

Recognizing a Victim

Now that you have a better idea of what bullying can be, it’s important to know how you can recognize if your kid is a victim of kindergarten bullying. There are numerous signs to watch out for in this area, here are a few that your child may be showing:

  • Comes home looking too untidy, with torn clothes, damaged school supplies, or lost possessions
  • Feels too gloomy or sad for no apparent reason, exhibits mood swings, depression symptoms, sudden temper, or irritability
  • Loses his appetite on a regular basis
  • Constantly makes excuses to skip school, too many “I don’t feel too well” excuses
  • Has bruises, scratches, or cuts without solid reasoning of how they got there
  • Frequently has trouble falling asleep, cries during his sleep or has repeated bad dreams
  • Regression, where your child starts redisplaying habits of younger age such as bedwetting
  • Seems to be too anxious to leave the house or separate from you if you drop him off
  • Keeps suggesting illogical alternative routes to go to and from school.
  • His grades and school work seem to suffer more than normal. If your kid already has a learning disability that causes him to struggle through school, getting taunted about it would make it even worse to deal with
  • Asks for more money without a convincing reason for it, probably to meet his bully’s demands
  • Seems too quiet and isolated, doesn’t engage in family conversations, socially shuts down friendly interactions, or shies away from making friends and attending birthday parties
  • If there are siblings, he seems to pick uncalled for fights and arguments, may resort to aggressive behavior

Parents Role in Preventing and Coping with Bullying

Suspecting or knowing your child is being bullied can evoke strong emotions and feelings, you may find your protective instincts kicking into overdrive, which is understandable but not the best way to handle the situation. Your top priority is to help your child overcome the trauma in the healthiest way possible, without negative aftermath. Then comes punishing whoever is responsible and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Ask and Listen

Ask them about their day, every day. Don’t get tired or bored. Making the time to connect and communicate with your child is key to healthy self-expression and can give you a real insight of his day to day interactions.

Avoid the interrogative style of questions, ask them in a way that encourages a flow of conversation instead of mere “yes” or “no” answers.

Listen carefully to what they have to say, their complaints or reports of being bullied. Show empathy and complete attention to their talks and consider doing it in private instead of the dinner table.

Love rather than Blame

Absolutely avoid blaming your child if he’s a victim. It took a lot of courage for them to open up to you, and if you end up showing disbelief or criticism, well you won’t only lose their trust, but also you’ll wreck their sense of self-worth.

Reassuring them you love them will nourish their feeling of acceptance and in turn, encourage them to keep talking to you, build a stronger character, and help with bully coping.

Nourish your Child’s Confidence

Building self-esteem is a great way to empower your kid’s mental health. The more he’d confident about himself, the more he can show strength in confronting a bully and not get affected by it.

Highlight his positive attributes and praise his talents. Teach him to make eye contact and talk in a clear tone.

Be Aware of Your Own Behavior

They often say a child’s brain is like a sponge, he sees and mimics. This is exactly why you should step back and reevaluate how you resolve issues at home. Do you approach things calmly and rationally? Have you ever insulted anyone in front of your child? Remember, your behavior is reflected in your child’s way of dealing with problems.

Safety Strategies

Teaching your child what to do when a bully is trying to harass him can be a huge help when it comes to bullying prevention.

Establish that hitting back should be a last resort, only as a self-defense reaction to actual attempts of physical harm. You don’t want your child to be scared to stand up for himself, rather than be wise about it.

Walking away and reporting to an adult is something you definitely want to encourage. Explain to your child the difference between “ratting out” and “reporting” and that it’s okay to seek help from grown-ups.

Fortify their feeling of safety by giving them a number of an available parent’s or adult’s number to call if he gets too afraid. If he walks to or from school, establish some kind of safe house, such as a specific store, where he can seek protection if bullies are following him.

Encourage them to use their words as a weapon if someone is bullying them. Usually, bullies are looking for big reactions, so when they find none, they back off. Phrases like “That’s not very nice” or “Stop, it’s not cool” can really kill the buzz for a bully.

Reach Out

Persistent bullying calls for more formal approaches. Talking to your kid’s teacher is probably the best place to start since they work so closely with them.

Talking to the bully’s parents can also help resolve the issue. Avoid a defensive tone, something along the lines of “How about we try and have them get along?” would be more fruitful.