Making sure your child maintains a healthy social life outside of a homeschooling environment is an important part of their development. For a lot of kids, school is where friendships are forged and they learn crucial social skills with their peers. For children that are homeschooled, activities, clubs, and hobbies are all fantastic ways to ensure they interact with people their own age, and don’t miss out on an important feature of traditional education. Bullying is of course one of the many reasons parents might decide to homeschool their child. However, while lessening the potential for being bullied, it doesn’t make them immune from it altogether. As any adult knows, bullies can be encountered anywhere in life – whether you’re a child in school, a child out of school, or an adult in the workplace.
It’s important to teach your child about bullying and the devastating effects it can have on someone. This isn’t only so they can recognize if they’re being bullied themselves, but so they can recognize when it’s happening to other people – and perhaps most importantly, so they never behave that way themselves.
The Key Signs
Given that homeschool parents will spend considerably more time with their kids than most, there’s a good chance your instincts will tell you if something is not right with your child. Nonetheless, here are some of the key signs you may notice in a child that is experiencing bullying.
Many children who experience bullying will commonly appear withdrawn – some concealing it better than others. Bullying has a devastating effect on a child’s self-esteem, and zoning out and shying away from the world is a typical coping mechanism. Some kids are quieter than others, so it won’t always be easy to spot. However if your child was once lively and sociable and seems to have completely lost their zest for life, then there is something very wrong.
Anger & Bullying Others
Since bullying is a learned behavior, it’s common for bullies to be victims of bullying themselves. By the same token, if your child is a victim of bullying, it’s possible they might take their anger and frustration out on someone else. If you notice your child teasing other kids, unleashing pent up anger on to their siblings or even yourself, being a victim of bullying themselves might be at the heart of it.
Depression, Substance Abuse, & Destructive Behaviors
These things commonly go hand in hand, but don’t have to. Bullying is a typical cause of depression within kids, particularly those in their early teens. The symptoms for depression aren’t always obvious. Aside from withdrawing from the world, some kids, like adults, are capable of putting on a ‘smiley face’ and carrying on when they’re suffering emotionally. For this reason it’s imperative to keep an open dialogue with your child, so that if they do begin to feel hopeless they’ll be able to tell you. One way in which this hopelessness might manifest is if your child turns to substance abuse. Some victims of bullying, like victims of other forms of abuse, might turn to drugs, alcohol, or even just food to help numb the pain. The same can be said for self harm. Many parents would like to think they’re vigilant enough to spot this behavior but it can be hidden from you – especially if your child has become dependent on substances.
Many schools, learning centers, and other organizations have procedures in place for tackling bullying, though the sad truth is they’re not always effective – some focus on just punishing the bully, as opposed to trying to make him or her understand the effects their behavior is having on someone else. Homeschooling allows you to take more direct and involved action.
If your child is experiencing more ‘minor’ bullying (which can be no less harmful), then it’s always worth seeing if they can solve it themselves with your support. If it’s teasing, or tit-for-tat type stuff kids often become embroiled in, then guiding your child in settling the dispute diplomatically and maturely is the best course of action. If, however, the bullying is severe, on-going, and having a very negative effect on your child, then the only thing you can do is speak directly to the parent of the bully (assuming it’s outside of a club environment where an authoritative body would be able to take action instead). It’s important to keep the communication diplomatic, constructive, and aimed towards solving the problem as opposed to criticizing parenting skills of the other parent (as understandably tempting as that may be if they have a bad-natured child!). Of course many parents would hate to think that their kid was bullying another, so communicate with that assumption in mind.
Sometimes lifestyle changes must be made in order to tackle bullying. In our internet age, cyber bullying is becoming increasingly problematic. Always make sure you monitor your kid’s activity online, and that nothing slips past your radar. Just because cyber bullying happens via a screen doesn’t make it any less harmful.
Never Dismiss It
As anyone who has been bullied before will know, the effects are long lasting – and can follow you well into adulthood. There are some frightening statistics out there with regards to teen suicide, which in many cases is a direct consequence of bullying. For that reason, it’s absolutely imperative as a parent that you never brush it off, or dismiss it as normal behavior amongst kids. Children need to know that bullying is wrong, unacceptable, and that as a victim, they’re not to blame in anyway. It’s important that they understand that they deserve to be treated with the same decency and respect as everyone else.