Bad news – you just found out your kid has been bullied at school. Good news – they are not alone. So many social problems and mental health problems are hidden from the general perception of the public. People know depression is “out there” but have no idea how many people living on their street are affected by it. Likewise, people understand that bullying is somewhere in schools around the world, but may have no idea how deep the problem is in their local school district.
Your kid probably feels pretty isolated already, and may think they are the only one at school getting this kind of treatment. They are probably wrong about this. Bullies want their targets to feel isolated and hopeless. They want their targets to feel powerless to change their situation. And with that kind of defeated attitude, a bully could ideally maintain power over their target for a long time. If a bully or group of bullies is brazen enough to do it once to one child, they are certainly going to find other targets.
So yes, technically, there has to be a “first target” for any bully. But after getting up a little confidence, many bullies move on to more than one target. So even if you ask your child, “Is there anybody else these bullies are harassing?” you are probably not getting the whole story. They may be bullying kids from different grades, different classrooms, their siblings, or even kids in their neighborhood that go to a different school. Ask your child how much they know about the bullying bothering other kids, but don’t rely solely on your child’s report.
Contact your school about the situation, even if you think you have handled it pretty well. Teachers, counselors, bus drivers, lunch staff, and principals are on the front lines of social struggles between kids. As much as you might want to follow your child around all day and fend of potential bullies, you can’t be everywhere at once! Hopefully, your school takes bullying seriously enough to know how to help both bullies and their targets. Your child’s information may be the missing piece of a bullying problem some teachers at your school are trying to solve. Maybe they’ve made some observations and had suspicions that a child may be bullying others, but never had a report from a targeted child.
If your child is reporting a bullying problem, don’t let it go until you are satisfied something is happening at school to make it better. Reassure your child that they are probably not the only one this bully (or these bullies) has gone after. Don’t buy into the idea that you are the only one and you are making trouble for anyone who would need to look into this. School is not supposed to be a place where kids are afraid or looking over their shoulder. Your bullied child isn’t alone in this and neither are you as a concerned parent.