Being the “new kid on the block” is a lot less like being a popular 90’s boy band and more like living on a deserted island. For kids, moving can be scary and painful in many ways, most especially if they become the target of a bully. In addition to helping your child make friends in their new location, helping to unlock the “mystery” behind bullying can assist them in knowing how to stand up to a bully and prevent becoming a target.
Kids who are new to a school or neighborhood frequently become a prime target for bullying because, without strength in numbers (friends), they are isolated and vulnerable. Children who bully generally do so out of anger and the need for a sense of power and control. Bullies choose their victims carefully – seeking out kids who are alone, unlikely to defend themselves and unlikely to report bullying incidents.
Working from the outside in, also known as the “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy, can help your child feel more confident not only in his or her ability to handle a bully, but also to manage the challenges they face when moving. First, looking more confident often leads to feeling more confident. Coach your child to walk with purpose – chin up, head held high and shoulders back. Talking with a firm voice and making eye contact can indicate to a potential bully that your child isn’t someone who will succumb to nasty name-calling and physical intimidation. Never underestimate the power of practice. While it may feel silly and uncomfortable, encourage your child to practice around the house so the behavior becomes more natural and unconscious.
Working on the inside is a little more complex. High self esteem is truly the most powerful antidote to bullying. Bullies count on the fact that their words will carry the power to make their target doubt themselves and believe the lies the bully tells them. Through the Youth Voice Project, a study conducted between 2009 and 2010 with more than 13,000 youth, researchers sought to uncover why some kids were not negatively affected by bullying behavior. One effective strategy cited by the kids in the study was to think about the bullying differently. Don’t think like a victim. Bullying behavior says more about the bully than it does about you as a person. Bullies bully others because of something that is wrong with THEM, not something that is wrong with YOU.
Another effective strategy cited by the youth in the study was to get support. Bullies want to make their target feel isolated, so they won’t tell. Naturally, an effective bully-buster is to get support – from friends, parents, teachers, and other trusted adults. Guilt, shame and anger may all play a role in targets being reluctant to tell. Help your kids understand that telling isn’t tattling. Reporting bullying behavior is the first step in working to stop the bully. To learn about the Youth Voice Project and get other great advice from youth, go to http://stopbullyingnow.com.
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.