As my son (aka “my life”) starts a new school, new students, new teachers, new curriculum, new country – the inevitable bullying has started. This was anticipated and, if anything I was surprised it took this long for it to start. I am slightly comforted by the fact that bullying these days is much more subdued than when I was kid, I had my fair share of bullying too when I moved countries. I mean you’re already overwhelmed and confused, so you’re constantly feeling lost and fleeting.
As this is an ongoing issue with him, I have started a 4 route approach. They aren’t really steps as I expect them to go in parallel, so they are more like four parallel routes at the same time.
- Create a warm safe environment for him at home, this includes a cozy blanket, favorite cartoon movies, hot cocoa, lots of cuddles, joining around, board games, etc. He’s very vulnerable and may not always want to talk about it, sometimes he wants to be distracted with other “comforts” to ease his anxiety about school bullying. That includes taking him out occasionally to cinemas and the odd fast food treat, just to take him out of the drab routine and try to make him appreciate that everything is temporary and there are good things. It’s OK for him to be vulnerable as a boy and this gives him a breather. Seeing family, cousins, grand parents, family friends makes him realise he’s loved by a whole wack of other humans and he doesn’t need love coming only from his school.
- Most parents may not agree with me, but I have no problem in telling my son to fight back. Even if he falls to get back up and fight again, that’s a life lesson and to be frank turning the other check doesn’t always work. This is of course after he tried avoidance, but it’ll come to a point where fighting back is the only way. So after hearing the verbal abuse he gets (which isn’t as harsh as it sounds) I tell him how to answer. He takes karate but at this point it hasn’t proved that useful. So I tell him how to punch and kick. Sorry for those who don’t agree, but honestly as a backup resort (avoidance is first, always) it works – so far. It’ll make bullies think twice. This is also a life lesson, what if we all stay silent and avoid if people are harassing us in real life?
- This is probably the hardest part, but having him always communicating. Asking him daily how his day went, and making sure I’m on top of how he feels. I make it clear to him that he HAS to tell me what happened, and he can choose to either ask for my advice (which I will give happily), ask for my help (complain to a parent or teacher), or to just hear him out and staying silent (no advice at all). I give him these options always and it stops me from being always preachy and keeps it easy for him to communicate.
- Remind him of the bigger picture. I do this primarily by sharing with him how I got bullied (I went through being spat at while I walk home, garbage dumped on me when I sat at my desk, tripped on ice resulting in a bloody nose, and endless verbal abuse). For some reason this makes him feel better, especially since his bullying is tamer (for now, luckily). I also tell him how things change and talk to him about the positive things in his life, keeping some humour about the situation (without dismissing it). If you’re religious, maybe talk about divine justice in the future, or karma.
I am tempted to bringing this up to parents and teachers, but from experience I realise this may make it worse, and in some cases it becomes more dangerous. But that option is always there and I let him know it. So far he’s young enough (he’s the youngest in his class), so it’s been like a day on and day off thing, once it becomes more prolonged I will have to kick it up a notch.
Let me know if there are any suggestions or other approaches I should try on this?