Ashawnty Davis, a 10-year old girl from Aurora, Colorado, hung herself in her closet and was on life-support for two weeks before she sadly died last week. Ashawnty was a victim of bullying and when she found out a video of her fighting her bully was posted to social media she was distraught enough to end her life. Also this past week, 13-year-old Rosalie Avila, took her own life after being relentlessly bullied at school. Could these tragic losses been prevented? I’d like to think so. Here are five life-saving tips you need to know to help your child if they are being bullied.
- Listen to your child and take them seriously. Yes, the word “bully” gets tossed around too frequently when it really isn’t true bullying, but don’t just assume your child is making mountains out of molehills. Ascertain if they are being consistently picked on, threatened, excluded, tormented or physically hurt. Listen to how they feel about the situation. What you might think is a minor infraction could feel like a huge deal to your adolescent.
- Be an Ally. Your child might feel alone in their struggle and believe there is nothing they can do to end there suffering. Let them know they are not alone and that you will help them solve their problem.
- Get involved. Schools take bullying seriously so let them know what is going on. Don’t assume that “kids will work this out on their own…” or “I might make things worse if I get involved…” Call the principal. Sit down with the teacher. They will do the hard work of contacting the parents of the bully so that you don’t have to. Most schools have a zero-tolerance policy and will have steps in place to help make your child safe.
- Get help for your child. Bullying can put a huge dent in self-esteem and cause depression. If you notice your child is not their normal self, get help form the school counselor or psychotherapist. Know the signs of depression and suicide ideation to know if your child is at risk. Are their grades falling? Has there been in a change in the appetite or weight? Do they no longer feel like participating in activities they normally enjoy? Have they said thing like “I don’t want to live anymore?” If your child seems depressed, take notice and get them the support they need. It could save their life.
- Teach them how to stand up for themselves. This doesn’t mean throwing punches at their bully or attacking back on social media. We don’t want your child becoming a bully too or getting in trouble at school or with the law. Instead, teach them to first ignore their bully as much as possible. By not feeding into the bullying, the hope is that the bully will get bored and move on. This may mean unplugging from social media and other devices that their bully can find them on. Blocking phone numbers will prevent unwanted texts and calls from that person. If ignoring doesn’t work, teach your child to have a few phrases to say to stand up without putting their bully down, such as “Leave me alone” or “Back off.” Have them make sure their closest friends are nearby and ready to provide support and protection when needed. Finally, remind them to get help from a trusted adult at school if needed.
If you would like more information on bullying you can go to www.stopbullying.gov or contact Amy Topelson at 303-717-4929. If safety is a concern you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for support or go to your local emergency