What you can do if your child is being bullied
Parents wondered aloud about the safety of their children in what most would deem their second home, as students spend most of their time in school. Online, this is among the top questions: What should you do if your child is being bullied?
According to the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, 3 out of 5 Filipino children have experienced peer violence in the form of bullying. It is a serious matter that should be addressed not just by schools, but also by families and communities.
Here are 3 pieces of advice from parents who spoke from their own experiences of dealing with the bullying that their children faced:
1. Be observant.
Not all children might immediately share their experiences of being bullied. That's why parents must also be conscious of changes in their children's behavior.
Macy Asupan, the president and chief executive officer of Trainings and Beyond Training Consultancy Services, noticed that her son was going through something when he started to act differently.
"Be conscious of even just the minimal change in your child's behavior. Bullying is progressive. Sometimes, emotional bullying is more difficult to figure out," Asupan said.
"Make it a habit to talk to your child everyday. Ask about their classmates, who they are, what do they do. Parents can get clues as to how their children relate to their classmates through those talks," she added.
When children finally do open up about bullying, it's important for parents to listen and understand.
"What I can advise parents of kids who are being bullied at school is to never ignore it, especially if your child tells you about being bullied and asks for your help," said Berlin Flores, a 36-year-old local disaster risk reduction and management officer.
His two children, a Grade 4 student at Ilaya Elementary School and a student at Tanay National High School, received threats of physical harm and verbal intimidation. In the case of his high school daughter, the habitual bully was found to come from a troubled family, who used her hostile attitude as a "form of rebellion."
Both his children, especially his son, went to him for help. "My son would immediately tell me about such incidents, to which I would find time off from work to talk with their teacher or adviser and to come face to face with the bullies."
Flores emphasized the importance of being open and understanding, especially since bullying is a sensitive matter. "Your child would most likely keep secret further cases of bullying if he or she feels that you are not responsive to such call for help. Don't let your child think or feel that way," he said.
One way that children can feel that they are being heard is when something is being done about their situation. Flores advised finding time to talk to the bully in a calm and civilized manner. "And please, do it as soon as possible," he added. (READ: What I wish happened when I got bullied)
3. Consult with school authorities.
When confrontation doesn't seem like the best course of action, meeting with school authorities may help.
"With the help of the adviser or school guidance counselor, ask for an audience with the bully's parents or guardians, so you can find common ground to resolve the problem together. It's vital to do this in the presence of both parties, since a one-sided resolution to the problem would most likely be unfruitful," said Flores.
There are laws and regulations that schools must comply with to ensure robust anti-bullying policies in public and private preschool, elementary, and secondary schools. The Department of Education Child Protection Policy (DepEd Order No. 40, series 2012), for example, orders the creation of child protection committees in all public and private schools.
The implementing rules and regulations of the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 also require all public and private schools to submit a copy of their child protection or anti-bullying policy to the division office. (READ: The road to a bully-free Philippines)
These ensure that reports of bullying to parents, teachers, and other appropriate authorities would be treated with confidentiality.
When Asupan's son with autism spectrum disorder was bullied in a regular kindergarten class at Ateneo de Davao University, she immediately consulted school authorities.
Even with a teacher and a teacher aide overseeing the class, her son got hit by a classmate. "Because it was not easy to get the full version, I did not react right away," Asupan said.
Since the complaints were consistent, Asupan set a meeting with teachers and the bully's parents, who didn't attend and later remarked, "Baka naman naglalaro lang." (Maybe they're just playing.)
The experience underscored the role that teachers and parents play in resolving and preventing bullying. "We can never predict how bullies will be triggered and teachers can greatly help in mitigating potential dangers. Parents are critical in embedding good behavior and [a] proactive stance against bullying," Asupan explained.
Although all schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy, implementation may also be poor, leading to the occurrence of these incidents.
Asupan's advice: "More than a paper policy, schools must develop sustainable programs that will embed good values such as care, embracing diversity and inclusion, social responsibility. These values promote respect to others. Teach children how to say no to bullying and provide a safe environment where bullying can be reported and bullies can be properly sanctioned." – Rappler.com