Partnering with Parents
The most effective anti-bullying programs engage parents as collaborators. To this end, we shared our survey results and our plans to respond with all current middle school families. We also asked parents to help in the following ways:
• Keep us informed.
When relational aggression occurs "under our radar," we cannot directly intervene. So, if you hear of something important, let us know. Whenever possible, encourage your children to do the "reporting" themselves. If you sense reluctance, offer to help them do so. This way, your children have a chance to contribute directly toward an emotionally and physically safer school. Each social challenge your children face provides an opportunity for growth and a sense of accomplishment.
• Serve as a "consultant" to your child around his/her social challenges.
Whenever your children turn to you with a problem, acknowledge the struggle it is for them, no matter how minor it may seem in the grand scheme of things. Once they feel heard and understood, they will be in a much better position to proceed. You can then coach them to think through aspects of their dilemmas, see others' points of view, and consider various courses of action. Keep your ears open for how much help is called for. At times, children need us to be their spokespersons; at others, to be present while they speak out; at others, to remain behind the scenes.
• Model the interpersonal behaviors you would like your children to exhibit.
Let them see how feelings of anger, hurt, frustration, jealousy, etc. can be handled in relationships in a forthright, respectful manner. Demonstrate compassion and tolerance when you talk about differences between people, and let them witness you thinking actively about how your behavior impacts on others. Model the ability to acknowledge, apologize, and learn from mistakes.
• Convey the importance of treating others with respect and dignity.
Communicate that friendliness, kindness, honesty, courage, respect, and inclusion are good deeds, worthy of attention and praise. Share with them examples of "heroic" actions taken to promote fairness and to protect others from harm — whether they stem from history, literature, the news, or your own life experiences.
• Ask for help when you need it.
Some of you may be thinking, "Easier said than done!" Many of us are parents, and realize that these strategies can be difficult to carry out for a variety of reasons. If you are trying to implement any of these recommendations and encounter obstacles, or come across situations that feel beyond your level of comfort, we urge you to reach out to each other, or contact us.
— Juliet Sternberg