As grandparents, we are often overprotective with the safety and happiness of our grandchildren; and try and do everything we can to keep them happy. But, what happens when our grandchildren begin to struggle with bullying in school and now more than ever, the internet? We all can agree that bullying has been a part of adolescence life since we were kids, but we didn’t have to navigate the internet world where anyone can say or post anything they want, thinking there is no direct repercussion for their actions. So, we have been asking ourselves: how can we help our grandkids navigate bullying? How can we truly, help?
Grandparents can play an important role in bullying prevention. Children who feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell a parent or a teacher about a problem may instead turn to a grandparent for comfort and support. Grandparents and grandchildren often have a special bond that is unique from other relationships children have with adults. Showing grandchildren love, concern, and reassurance is important. Children involved in a bullying situation need specific help and guidance. When grandparents have a clear understanding of what bullying is and how to address it, they can help keep their grandchildren safe.*
What Grandparents Need to Know About Bullying
Grandparents will be best prepared to help their grandchildren if they have a solid understanding of the behaviors that constitute bullying.
Bullying is a serious problem that requires immediate attention and a well thought out response. We know much more about bullying now than when grandparents were children or even parents of young children. Bullying is not just “kids being kids,” and being bullied doesn’t make children stronger. We know that bullying can have damaging short and long-term effects. Through research and best practices, we now have effective strategies for preventing and stopping bullying.
It’s important to understand what bullying is and how to recognize it. Bullying is a form of emotional or physical abuse that has three defining characteristics:
Deliberate: A bully’s intention is to hurt someone
Repeated: A bully often targets the same victim again and again
Power imbalanced: A bully chooses victims he or she perceives as vulnerable
What Grandparents Can Do to Help a Grandchild Respond to Bullying
If a grandchild comes to a grandparent with a problem about bullying, here are some things that grandparents can do:
- Let their grandchild know that they take bullying seriously. Sympathize, show concern, and ask for more information.
- Determine if the problem is really bullying—has someone intentionally and repeatedly used words, actions, or relationships to hurt their grandchild, and does the situation involve a power imbalance?
- Ask the grandchild if he or she has told another adult about the situation. If not, grandparents can encourage the child to tell his or her parent(s).
- If warranted, a parent or grandparent can discuss the situation with the child’s teacher. Teachers may be able to help solve the problem through working with the school’s bullying prevention protocols.
- Offer effective ways that the child could respond to bullying. For example, role-play how to stay calm and speak up assertively in a bullying situation and brainstorm a list of trusted friends or adults who could help. The child’s parent or teacher might have other suggestions as well.
- Make sure that an adult follows up to confirm that the bullying stops.
- The best way to stop bullying is to prevent it before it starts. Many grandparents love to tell stories of when they were young. Sharing a story about when a grandparent experienced bullying may encourage a grandchild to share his or her concerns about bullying before it becomes a problem. Grandparents can use these stories to help grandchildren understand that bullying is never acceptable and that there are ways to stop it.
What Grandparents Need to Know About Cyberbullying
Some children take advantage of time with their grandparents to use the computer or other digital devices. Although grandparents may feel intimidated by unfamiliar technology, they don’t need to keep up with the latest tech gadgets to keep their grandchildren safe. Rather, they should pay attention to changes in children’s moods when using these technologies. Grandparents might realize that if a grandchild becomes upset after spending time on the computer or cell phone, he or she may be involved in online bullying, known as cyberbullying.
*Portions of article reprinted from: http://www.promoteprevent.org/blog/bullying-prevention-important-role-grandparents