How to Talk to Kids about Bullying and Abuse

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How to Talk to Kids about Bullying and Abuse

News reports rarely getِ more revolting: In theِ lastِ month, twoِ assistant coaches ofِ big-time college sports teams haveِ beenِ publicly accused ofِ sexually abusing children.
But forِ parents — whoseِ top job isِ to keepِ their kids safe — thatِ revulsion mayِ beِ layered withِ astonishment, becauseِ victims oftenِ didn’tِ tell othersِ ofِ the alleged abuse untilِ years later.
Kids knowِ what parents wantِ toِ hear andِ don’t wantِ toِ hear.

What signs can parents look for?

There’s moreِ than oneِ way toِ handle speaking withِ a child orِ teen ifِ you suspect they’reِ beingِ victimized, saidِ Michele Borba, anِ educational psychologist inِ Palm Springs, Calif., andِ author ofِ The Big Book ofِ Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers toِ Your Everyday Challenges andِ Wildest Worries (Jossey-Bass, 2009).
There’s noِ cookie-cutter approach, butِ you haveِ to follow yourِ suspicion ifِ you feel thisِ isِ a possibility, Borba said, especiallyِ if youِ haveِ evidence orِ a strong suspicion — someoneِ told you, orِ you’re seeingِ marked changesِ that areِ not normal forِ your child.
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What are those changes? According to Fornari and Borba, they include:

Of course, someِ these changesِ might onlyِ signal a minor, temporary setback forِ a child — suchِ asِ not making a sports team orِ gettingِ a part inِ the school play — andِ allِ kids areِ unhappy sometimes, theِ experts said.
But inِ the case ofِ abuse orِ bullying, theseِ changesِ will typically continue forِ atِ least twoِ weeks, Borba said.
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What if they don’t want to talk?

Parents canِ say, ‘I’m reallyِ concerned, andِ here’s whatِ I’m noticing.
I wantِ toِ makeِ sure youِ feel safe,’ Borba said.
If a child justِ won’t answer anyِ questions orِ shrugs themِ off, Fornari recommended takingِ a lighter approach.

Above all, parents should trust their gut instincts, Borba said.

Probably theِ mostِ telltale sign isِ a parent whoِ said, ‘I justِ knew,’ sheِ said.
No oneِ knowsِ your child betterِ than you..