Article written by Michaela Madden
February 22 is Pink Shirt Day: A movement celebrated across the globe to raise awareness and funds for various anti-bullying initiatives. Unfortunately, bullying is all too common. Nearly half of Canadian parents have at least one child that has been a victim of bullying. There’s nothing more painful than watching your child experience torment and harassment. Developing a plan with your co-parent to deal with it can also become complicated. If you’re struggling to see a path forward, here are a few tips for handling child bullying as co-parents
Talk With your Child:
Whether you feel comfortable speaking together or scheduling talks separately, it’s important to hear directly from your child and listen to their experiences. This also helps you figure out the full extent of the situation at hand. It’s natural for them to be embarrassed or reluctant to talk about it at first. Reassure them as parents that you are here to provide help and a safe space. Everyone’s co-parenting relationship is different, and some are unable to come together to communicate. If you’re unable to navigate this discussion together as co-parents, the most important thing is that your child feels secure and supported by both parents individually.
Align Your Approach to Bullying:
Coming together to stand up for your child can be a struggle depending on your co-parenting relationship. Beyond not being able to have a joint conversation, it can be difficult to ensure you’re both on the same page with how to handle your child’s situation. Maybe you want to go straight to the school board, while the other parent wants to wait before escalating it. Know that it’s completely natural for you to have different opinions on the path forward and that you’ll need to come to a compromise in the best interest of your child. Showing up as a united front not only sets a good example, but helps you avoid unnecessary extra turmoil between the two of you that could shift your focus away from the actual problem.
Promote Kindness and Confidence:
Seeing someone make your child sad can bring out some strong, negative feelings: anger, resentment, outrage… the list goes on. Even further, it may bring up memories and emotions from your own first bullying experience. It can be tempting to take matters into your own hands and confront the bully yourself. Instead, lead by example by promoting kindness, instilling confidence in your child, and being the person that “younger you” needed. Remind them to treat others as they want to be treated and assure them they are unique and amazing in their own way.
While promoting this positive mindset, also understand that kids can be kids. They may not always take the high road, especially if they’ve hit a breaking point with their bully. The last thing your child needs is to be reprimanded for defending themselves, and you can still encourage kindness and provide guidance while validating their experiences and supporting them in their decisions.
You and your co-parent may be able to get together to handle a bullying situation. Alternatively, you may need to keep your distance and handle the situation individually. Regardless of what works best for your family, the most important thing is that you are both available to show support and love for your kid during this difficult time. Even apart, you and your co-parent can stand up against bullying!