School is finally out!! No more tests! No more studying! No more homework!...but what about bullies? As much as we would like to believe bullies get locked away with the stacks of history books, it simply isn’t true. Bullying can occur at any location and at any time of the year, even during these blissful summer months.
In fact, outside of school, away from the supervision and protocol of the classroom, bullying can actually increase. This is especially true when children go away to summer camps where they are often forced to deal with difficult situations alone.
This isn’t fun to think about, but taking some time now to prepare can ensure a smooth summer and an even a better school year in the fall. Here are some points to consider as you head into your summer vacation:
Where is bullying likely to occur?
Keep up with your child as they participate in their summer activities, asking them questions and monitoring their attitude. If they suddenly seem disinterested in an activity they previously enjoyed, have less and less to say about their day, or talk often of quitting, do a little digging. These could all be signs that something isn’t quite right.
Establish Trusted Adults
This tip was suggested in an article on the website stopitcyberbully.com. Discuss with your child who will be in charge where they are going and who amongst that group they can trust if they need help. This is an especially important step for young children who may have more difficulty identifying the person in charge or having the confidence to approach someone they don’t know.
Again, the goal is to prepare your child, not frighten them. So, instead of saying “If someone teases you or steals your things at camp, tell your camp counselor” you could say “If you ever need help, remember, your camp counselor, Cindy, in there to help you with whatever you need. Her job is to make sure you stay safe and happy, just like your teacher at school!”
On your end, take a little time to establish a relationship with these adults, as well. If you’re able, volunteer to help out. This is the best way to get a front row view of the true dynamics of the group. However, many aren’t able to volunteer, and that’s ok! Again, this doesn’t have to be anything too intense. Simply introduce yourself, exchange contact information, and check in every now and then to see how everything is going.
It seems that gossip is one of the more frequent forms of bullying over summer vacation. Perhaps this is because people who gossip do so to make themselves feel better and summer often involves new, scary situations where kids need to make fast friends. Or, perhaps, it’s because the mystique of not seeing each other every day leaves things ripe for false stories. Whatever the reason, summer camps and sports teams always seem to teem with gossip. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know how to handle the situation since gossip is difficult to confirm, but can do an enormous amount of damage in a short span of time.
Find out where it is coming from and why
Figuring out who started the rumor may shed some light on why it is happening. Was the rumor meant to hurt your child or is it just a case of misinformation? Is the person gossiping or spreading rumors intent on ostracizing your child and getting others to turn against her? This information is important to know before your child reacts to the rumor. For instance, it is easier to clear up a case of misinformation than it is to respond to relational aggression.
Turn to a trusted adult for support
Talk to someone you can confide in, like a parent, teacher, school counselor, or coach. Let that person know what you're going through. Keep him or her up to date on what's going on, even as things start to get better. A trusted adult confidante can help you feel more supported and less alone. Plus, adults can take steps to put a stop to the rumors and gossip
Before you try talking to the person, though, talk with an adult about what to say and how to approach her. Every situation is different, and you want to make sure things don't turn into more meanness, yelling, or fighting. It can also help to have a friend stand with you when you talk to the girl.
Resist the urge to react or get revenge
When people are mean, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed and react in negative ways. As with other types of bullying, it makes it worse when kids reward a bully’s efforts by getting visibly upset. It is also tempting for kids to respond in kind with rumors or gossip of their own. Encourage your child not to seek revenge but to take the high road instead.
Don’t pass on gossip if you hear it. Make sure it stops with you
Stress with your child the importance of being mindful of the information they themselves spread about others, as well as themselves. Friends are not always as tight-lipped as they may have promised to be and facts can easily become distorted. Though simple, sometimes the age old “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” policy is the best to follow.
Responding to other types of bullying
Be sure to talk through what your child would do if they were in any position of a bullying scenario (bully, victim, bystander). Depending on your child, different preparations will fit better than others. For example, perhaps your child is very outgoing, social, and popular. He may not be a target of bullying at all, however, he should still be prepared for what to do if he sees someone being mistreated. How would he respond? Is there a way his popularity could help him help someone else? It should never be one child’s full responsibility to control a situation; however, some children have more influence over others and are able to utilize that influence for the better.
Remind your child that respect is always a necessity, even when school isn’t in session. People can still get hurt and angry and sad outside the classroom.
Fun preparation games
Learning doesn’t have to be boring! In fact, summer offers a multitude of opportunities for building valuable social skills such as empathy and teamwork. Here are a few of our favorites:
Sometimes the best way to understand another person is to actually step into their shoes. This blog offers some simple role play activities that can help children get a small taste of what it feels like to live with a disability, have an injury, or go hungry. This idea can be expanded to explore any perspective of your choice.
This activity is great for helping kids of all ages put themselves—literally—in the shoes of another. The activity can be tailored to fit the needs of your particular group.
Summer should be a time of fun, joy, and making memories, and, with a little preparation, it will be! We hope these tips have been helpful and that the only thing you that bugs your kids this summer, are the bugs!
Has bullying ever clouded up your sunny summer fun? Let us know how you handled it in the comments below.
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