It is hard when your child is having a tough time with their peers. We strive to create a world in which people are empathetic, caring, and where others treat us how we would like to be treated. Sadly, as we all know from personal experience, that dream is not always our reality. I believe we need to help our kids build the skills necessary to navigate difficult social interactions. There is no doubt that the sting of teasing hurts, but to teach our children to competently manage the situation allows them the capacity to grow in better understanding themselves and human nature. When my children struggle with these issues, I make sure they understand that I am there for them as a problem-solver and a partner. I actively listen, rephrase what they say, and I ask questions to ensure I am getting the whole story. I make sure they understand they can always talk to me and that they are not alone in these times. However, with the simple kid to kid issues, I want the situation to be rectified by them, not me. Should the situation continue to escalate, I will step in.
Here are some ideas to help your child develop a number of skills if they are being teased. Some ideas to have your child do are:
- Engage in self-talk in their heads such as “I don’t like this teasing, but I can handle it.”
- Roleplay where your son is the bully and you show him what to say. See what “fits” your child’s response best. Then, switch and have him try it out.
- Use humor to change the subject (Many of our students are hilarious!)
- Ignore the other student.
- Use “I” messages such as “I don’t like it when you make fun of my glasses. I would like you to stop.”
- Visualize the hurtful words bouncing off of him. It provides the imagery of a shield and the mechanism of thinking so the words do not have to be believed or accepted. This works particularly well for younger students.
- Look the other child straight in the eye and say “Whatever.” Or “So?” without emotion or reaction. The less energy your child gives back to their perpetrator, the less likely they are to keep bothering your child.
- Figure out who your child can go to if the problem continues and you are not there. Who are the safe people they can ask for help from? What is the best way to approach the bus driver or a soccer coach? Practice what that might look like.
I think it is important to create a plan so that should the situation arise again, your child feels ready. Circle back at the end of the day to your child and check in on how things are going. Did they execute the plan? What worked, and what didn’t work? Is there something they could do better? Reiterate that you know they are capable, and they will get through this situation.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of any help.
Meg Bamford is Head of the Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown.