Hallways and classrooms transform into hostile environments as mean girls lurk in the shadows once the new school year starts.
From football games and back-to-school fashions to new classes and old friends, saying goodbye to summer and starting a new year excites teens of leisure-turned students. We can forget as parents, though, how those hallways, classrooms, and football stadiums can become academic and social spaces of relentless torment, humiliation and degradation.
Since we may have blocked being made fun of in middle school or feeling like an outcast in high school from our memories, it’s easy to forget the paramount effect bullying has on a teen and the degree of emotional pain experienced. If a "mean girl pandemic" breaks at your daughter’s school, use the following school bullying guide to help her survive.
Be Aware & Supportive
No parent wants to see their child suffering or admit she’s a victim of bullying. Although difficult, avoid denial. Be aware of the signs of bullying. If your daughter’s hiding the issue, then gently help her open up about it by casually asking questions about school and friends. Signs include social resignation, anxiety, aloof behavior, moodiness and irritability.
Also, don’t dismiss your daughter’s mean girl battles. A cruel remark or malicious Facebook status can destroy a teenager. If she opens up to you, empathize, invest in her feelings and avoid empty responses like “just ignore them; girls like that aren’t worth your energy.”
Engage in Dialogue
Create meaningful discussions and encourage your teen to open up about what she’s experiencing. A listening ear and validation may be all that a teen needs as she navigates the tumultuous social landscape of teenage-hood independently.
As protective parents, we naturally may quickly react and lash out aggressively. Keep in mind this may stress your teen and worsen the situation, causing her to downplay the bullying, shut down and close herself off. Offer insight and start a conversation about how low self-esteem and jealousy trigger vindictive behavior within these mean girls. Explain that malicious words and actions aren’t a reflection of your daughter’s self-worth, but a reflection of an insecure bullying teenager who feels threatened, thrives off attention, and uses negativity to boost her ego.
Create Solutions as a Team
Help you daughter find solutions for dealing with bullies, mean girl cliques, or bad friends. Set up scenarios for role playing. Come up with behavioral and verbal responses for your teen to use, such as assertively saying “I don’t deserve this treatment and won’t participate in it.”
Encourage your teen to candidly speak with the bully when she’s alone, not suspecting it and out of her comfort zone. You daughter can ask the bully about motives and honestly express how this treatment affects her.
Update your daughter’s privacy settings on social networking sites. Block bullies and openly talk about the influence sites like Facebook and Instagram have on cyber bullying. If fake accounts are created, report abuse to terms of service.
Foster a Positive Home Environment
By maintaining a supportive home environment, you can help your daughter refocus and feel empowered. Be proactive about creating positive energies through inspiring conversation, fun activities, healthy eating and exercise. Look for ways for your teen to feel involved and like she’s a part of something. Whether she participates in a church group or school club, joining an organization where she feels like she can be herself can keep her spirits uplifted and self-esteem healthy.