As a bullying survivor turned activist who travels the nation's schools sharing her story with students, teachers, and parents in an effort to save lives, Jodee Blanco understands firsthand the mistakes many adults make when trying to help their bullied son or daughter.
Whether your child is being overtly abused by his or her classmates, or simply made to feel invisible every day, talked about instead of with, the student who may not get bullied per se but who no one at school ever goes out of their way to include in anything either, as a parent, you CAN help. Here are some tips to get started -- and always remember, bullying isn't only overt acts of cruelty; it's also the deliberate omission of kindness, the invitations denied, the warmth withheld, the acceptance just out of reach.
Never tell a bullied child to ignore the bullies and walk away, that the bullies are just jealous, or that you know how the bullied child feels. Vague references to the future are equally ineffective. Using adult logic on kids won't work.
Instead of offering well-meaning clichés, find your child a fresh social outlet where he or she can make new friends. This will buy you time to address the larger issues with the school, because your bullied child is bleeding in the form of loneliness, and your priority must be finding new friends with whom your child can feel a genuine connection. Best sources: the park district and the local public library the nearest next town over (far enough away that they don't feed into your child's school). The sooner you do this, the better, because the lonelier your child gets, the more danger he or she is in -- new friends will literally be a lifeline.
Ask your child for the names of other kids at school who are also being bullied and forge a "parent coalition." A school may try to ignore one concerned parent, but there's credibility in unity, and no school can effectively ignore a determined, organized group of concerned parents.
Document, document, document! Keep a "journal of abuses," jotting down dates, times, and details. And if it's cyberbullying, print out every nasty piece of evidence, every blog or Facebook posting, every IM, etc. Document threatening or demeaning cell phone texts as well.
When you do finally approach your child's school, keep taking it up the chain of command. If the principal doesn't give you a response, go to the superintendent. If that doesn't work, present your case in public at the next school board meeting. Every school district is required to hold a monthly school board meeting open to the public. Air your grievances there and bring your documentation!
And if that still doesn't yield any action on the part of the school, contact the education writer at your local newspaper. You'd be surprised how quickly a school administration will respond when reporters are asking questions.
And above all -- don't give up. Keep on fighting for your child's rights! And remember, you're not alone. There are people who can help. For more information or to contact Jodee Blanco, visit http://jodeeblanco.com.