Disclaimer: The goal of Conquer with Na’Kole is to provide education and support for moms (and concerned loved ones) as they conquer the giants that seek to conquer their children. I, Na’Kole Watson, am not a licensed mental health professional nor am I offering professional mental health services or advice. Therefore, I accept no liability or responsibility to anyone as a result of any reliance upon the information produced on this site or in any communication issued by Na’Kole Watson and Conquer with Na’Kole. The views expressed on this and any other affiliated website are my own, and all sources are linked. If you are in crisis, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If this is an emergency, please dial 911 immediately.
Has your child been acting “funny” when it comes to going to school? Maybe they have expressed a sudden interest in homeschooling. Maybe they’ve “overslept” or faked sick a few times. Maybe they’ve outright said that they hate school and do not want to go.
So many times, we dismiss these things as “typical teen/tween behavior” – but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sometimes, there is a whole lot more going on.
It isn’t always easy to tell if your child is being bullied. Your child may be too embarrassed or afraid to talk about it. They may also think it’s best (and safest) to protect themselves by remaining silent.
Because 1 out of 5 students will experience bullying and studies show that 49.8% of tweens say that they have been bullied at school, it is a good idea to have regular conversations about bullying with your child.
If you think your child may be experiencing bullying at school, here are five questions you can ask them today:
01 – Do you believe that you can always tell me about anything that’s going on at school?
This is a very important question to ask because it breaks the ice and sets the stage. Your child may be completely uncomfortable with talking to you about bullying (that’s normal – don’t take it personally), and it may take some probing questions like this one to ease into the conversation.
02 – Why or why not?
It is important to give your child a safe place and space to express their true feelings without punishment or judgment. This will show your child that you are deeply concerned and that you want to make sure that they are good with coming to you when something is wrong. If your child just doesn’t feel safe or comfortable talking to you, while you are exploring that, be sure to establish a trusted adult that your child can talk to until they feel comfortable talking to you.
So many times, parents lose sight and get offended when their children don’t want to talk to them. We will make time to repair those breaches and get things together with the parent-child communication – but in the meantime, your child needs a safe place, period.
03 – Do you like where you sit on the bus?
If your child is constantly missing the bus or avoiding it altogether, there may be a problem. Sometimes, something as simple as of adjusting the seating arrangements will make all the difference in your child’s ride to school.
04 – Is your bus driver being nice to you?
Though very direct, this is a question that absolutely needs an answer. Keep in mind that adults can be bullies, too. You don’t want to assume that adults are bullying your child, and you don’t want to lead your child into saying that they are. Asking this neutral question should get you the answer you need without forcing your child into the uncomfortable position of saying “yes, my bus driver is bullying me”.
05 – Do you like where you sit in your classes?
Seating plays a major role in the successful operation of any classroom. Every classroom has blind spots, and it’s very important to know whether or not someone is bullying or bothering your child in the learning environment. Asking your child if they like where they are sitting will alleviate their feeling like they are being forced to tell on someone. It will remove the pressure of them being afraid of what they will face if you go up to the school and make a scene. I’m not saying you would do that, but oftentimes, this is what kids think. They keep things from their parents because they don’t want to be embarrassed.
06 – Is your teacher (are your teachers) being nice to you?
We love and appreciate teachers. We also know that teachers aren’t always nice. Knowing whether or not your child’s teacher is nice to them will help you to get a good starting point in your advocacy if your child is experiencing bullying. Knowing that the teacher is being mean to your child may cause you to start with the administration of the school instead of the teacher. Knowing that the teacher is being nice and attentive to your child makes it easier for you to communicate your concerns if bullying is going on in the classroom.
07 – Is there anything happening at school that is making you mad or sad?
This question begins to break the ground that needs to be broken for your child to tell you about their emotional state. School can be very stressful (especially now), and sometimes, kids feel like it’s better to just figure it out than to tell a parent or a trusted adult. Asking this question often causes children to cry and to finally let out what is happening with them. Please hold space for them once they start to reveal the truth about what’s going on.
08 – Has anyone said anything mean or made fun of you?
Your child may not want to name names right away. That’s understandable. Try to be as compassionate as possible without pushing your child to name the offenders. It may take a little bit of time for your child to feel comfortable revealing what’s happening. They may be dealing with denial or embarrassment. It could be that the bully has threatened your child. Whatever it is, remember that the more forceful you are, the more resistant and reluctant your child will be to tell you what’s happening.
09 – Is there anything I can do to make things better for you at school?
Sometimes it makes children feel better to be escorted to and from the bus stop. Sometimes your child may want you to call the teacher or send an email. Giving your child the open opportunity to make their own suggestions allows them to feel empowered in a situation that may have them feeling powerless.
10 – Is there anything I should stop doing because you’re uncomfortable with it?
Your child may feel like you’re embarrassing them. Before you get upset and offended, think back to your childhood. The Helicopter Parent model may not work for your child in the season they’re in. They may not want you to walk them to the bus stop. They may want you to just watch them from the car. They may not want you to show up at the school. Now by all means, use your discretion and do what you need to do (within reason and within the law) to protect your child, but it is good to keep in mind how your actions may be causing your child further agitation and anguish.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. You may be able to have a sit-down conversation with your child, or you may have to write the questions on one side index cards and have your child answer them on the other side of them. Regardless of how you get the information, the most important thing is that the information is gathered.
Bullying is a serious problem and it affects everyone, but especially children – and especially in this polarized society. It’s so important to talk with your child about bullying so that they feel safe and empowered. Knowing that you have their back makes a world of difference when they walk into that school every day.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for other parents who will read this article, feel free to drop them in the comments!
Be sure to check out my article entitled “When Bullying Strikes” to get detailed information about what to say and do if you discover that your child is being bullied. You’ll learn EXACTLY what to do and how to do it!
Photos: Canva Pro