Supporting, and cheering on, bullied children

Inversion Cheer Athletics Toledo is committed to helping develop brave, confident children. But while it can take a whole village to raise a self-assured child, it sadly only takes one or two bullies to tear them down.

Everyone at some point in their childhood was the subject of ridicule or teasing. It’s unpleasant and hurtful but doesn’t leave a lasting impact on our lives. What some children experience though is not as simple as a few cross words or epithets. Some children are the victims of bullying and the trauma of it can affect them for years.

It is our responsibility to children to identify when teasing at school becomes detrimental and constant. In other words, when it crosses the line into bullying

Warning signs that your child is being bullied: anxious, not eating, not sleeping, moody, avoiding??

Children are often reluctant to talk about problems in their lives, especially problems like bullying which makes them feel weak for being unable to deal with it on their own. We all need to be on the lookout for the common signs of bullying such as lasting bouts of anxiety, moodiness, a lack of appetite and sleep, and avoiding locations and activities where they are likely to be around their bully.

If you’re concerned that your child is being bullied, find subtle, round-about ways of helping them open up to you. For instance, if you find them watching a show with a plotline about bullying, use that as an opportunity to start a conversation. Encourage your children to speak up; let them know that you want to listen.

Bullying can take a number of different forms and your reaction should be informed by the type of bullying your child is being subjected to. That being said, there are a few steps you should take regardless of what kind of bullying is going on. The first is to talk to the principal, school counselor and teacher. If they are unable to remedy the situation, consider talking directly the parents of the bullying child.

If practical, encourage your child to spend time with one or more other children. Bullies, often so brave when they’re targeting just one person, have a tendency to lose their confidence when they have to confront multiple people at once.

Remind your child that they can almost always just walk away. The key here is not to run, your child can walk away and project confidence at the same time. Also, do not encourage your child to fight back. Fighting will just land them in trouble at school and despite the popular wisdom, it doesn’t “teach” the bully anything at all. In fact, escalating a confrontation with a bully can lead to the bully feeling justified in pushing their own aggressive behavior past previous boundaries.

While reinforcing the idea that their feelings about being bullied are normal and acceptable, help your child learn to not display emotions in front of their bully. Point out to your child that being able to control themselves is a skill they possess that their bully, by definition, does not.

Find out if your state has anti-bullying laws and avail yourself of them. Find out also if your child’s school has an anti-bully program. If it does, get involved. If it doesn’t, start one!

Most importantly, talk to your child before they become the victim of bullying. Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult about their problems. Listen to them when they do. Make sure they know that they will be believed if they come to you with a problem.

Finally, if things are bad enough, you can always contact Legal Aid of Northwest Ohio between 9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday (419-724-0460) or the Toledo Bar Association’s “Ask The Attorney” on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm (419-255-2255).

More information is available online at KidsHealth.org.