Breathe. First and foremost, you need to relax. Children pick up on our energy. If you are angry and overwhelmed by the situation, your child will feel it. When children feel our energy, they do not know what to do with it. They do not yet have the tools to process their own feelings and emotions, let alone an adult’s. This would be a great time to practice my favorite “counts of four breaths”. This is when you inhale over a count of four, hold it for a count of four, and release over a count of four.
Refocus. As much as you want to seek revenge, this will solve nothing. Instead, use that energy to focus on what really matters- your child. This is the perfect opportunity to show your child that you will always have his or her back. Validate their feelings by saying something like “I know that it made you sad when Sally wouldn’t let you play with her at recess. It is confusing when our friends say things that are hurtful.” All kids handle bully situations differently. Some kids will come home and tell you every detail about the situation, while others might have some embarrassment or shame around it, and may say very little, if anything at all. In either case, let them know that you support them and that it is not okay for friends to be mean to each other. If your child did not come home and tell you about the situation, and, perhaps you heard about it from a source other than your child, bring it up to your child. Ask about feeling and model the importance of expressing emotion.
Reach out. Let the school know about it. You do not need to tell your child that you will be contacting the school. This may cause more anxiety, because no child wants to be seen as a tattle-tale. Schools do not take bullying lightly, and part of your job as a parent is to advocate for your child. It is simply unacceptable for any child to feel unsafe, either physically or emotionally, while at school. Start by reaching out to the teacher, and if it continues, go straight to the next in the chain of command.
Be mindful. This is a big one! How many times do we snap at our children when they ask us a question at an inopportune time? How often do we rush them when we are trying to multitask and they want to tell a longwinded story about what their best friend had for lunch yesterday? Slow down. Being mindful at these times helps to lay the foundation of your relationship with your child. If you are snapping at your child because you are too busy to listen, do you think they will feel comfortable coming to you when they are being picked on? When your child comes to you and seems to be rambling on and on incessantly about what you might think is nonsense, slow down and listen. What you might consider to be nonsense is probably very important to your child. And, if you take the time to listen, it will not go unnoticed. The goal here is to have your child feel comfortable enough to come to you when they really need you.