SMF: What words of encouragement would you give to a parent of a teenager who is being bullied in school?
JENNY: Bullying is very serious and should be taken very seriously. It is a form of abuse. Every single student in the school has the right to feel safe in his or her school and environment. When one is a victim of bullying, he or she may feel powerless, like any other abuse victim. The key in this situation, then, is to empower your teen and offer him or her a tremendous amount of guidance and support in breaking free of the violence they are experiencing. It is important to help your teen recognize that what is happening to them is NOT their fault and that they CAN break free.
One suggestion to regain power and control when one feels powerless is to come to a place of recognition of what is and is not in your control. A way to do this is to start by taking out a sheet of paper and make a line down the middle of the page. On one side write, “What IS in my Control,” and other side write “What IS NOT in my Control.” Create a list together with your teen for each category. Things that might be IN your control are your attitude, your teen’s attitude; you, the parent, advocating to the principal of the school with more information on bullying, how serious it is, and how seriously you want the school to take it. Things that are NOT in your control are the bully and the way the school may respond, for example. Parents whose children were in similar situations have been proactive about working with the schools to create a no violence (including verbal abuse) policy, through education and advocacy. When the schools would not budge, however, those parents may have chosen to take their child out of that school.
It is from this place of recognizing what IS in your control, and what IS NOT in your control, that you and your teen will have the ability to think clearly, feel empowered, and make choices about what you and your teen are willing or not willing to tolerate and make choices that are right for your teen and you.