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HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

Ask the Experts

My Seventh-Grader Is Worried About Bullying

Debra Collins
Debra Collins

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

How do you handle returning to school after summer vacation when there was bullying (also called "hazing" nowadays) the previous year? How should this be handled if your seventh-grader never mentioned it when he was new in the previous year? But suddenly he shows fear and says he doesn't want to return after the summer vacation for fear it will recur?

Answer:

It is frustrating to find things out after they occurred. No matter how good your communication with your son may be, he may have felt either that he could handle it, or was embarrassed that he could not. Boys sometimes have a harder time admitting to parents that they are being bullied. They feel like a crybaby if they go to their parents and they also fear retaliation from the perpetrators.

The important thing is that your son is coming to you now. Be proud of him for trying to cope and give him positive feedback for trusting you for support. Often, if you ignore bullying behavior, it has a tendency to become more serious, so it is wise to take action. Assure him that the only way to stop bullying is to have parents and school authorities intervene.

Bullying is often defined as intimidating behavior and can involve physical, verbal, or Internet (cyber bullying) incidents. Because school bullying has become a complex legal and social issue, you will need to do some fact gathering and research.

First find out all the details of the events from your son, including his response to the perpetrators. Many consequences are based on specific behaviors, so the details are important. Next contact your school principal and school district to find out about their policy and what procedures you need to follow to issue a complaint. You'll want to do this before school starts if possible, so that your son has a safety plan in place. Missing school will only complicate your son's difficulties.

I'm glad you used the word "hazing" because that activity is usually associated with group initiations and is often mistakenly thought of as a harmless tradition. Stophazing.org defines it as, "… any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm…"

Whatever terms we use, children need to feel safe at school and require adults to help achieve that. Additional resources to guide you National Youth Violence Preventionand Stop Bullying Now offers advice for teens. Your state Attorney General's office may also be a resource for state programs and guidelines.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/15/2010:
"yes, my grandchildren told me that they were being bullied right in the middle school and they went to the authorities, and they told them that they couln't do anything about it because it was not caught on camera. What kind of help is that? and it wasn't long ago that a young lady hung herself because of this matter, I don't want this to happen to my grandchidren. Childern need to be monitored and not rely on cameras. There is a law in Michigan against bulling."
08/19/2009:
"I believe that children have many things to worry about,like education and growing up to be responsible adults.When we as parents see our children change before our eyes because of situations that happen in school or on the bus it tends to anger us,so as good parents we need to take control of the situation and take other pre-cautions to protect our child...so what I told my children was if anything happens,let me and the teacher know..If the teacher wont or cant straighten the issue out then we will take legal action,although it may not be the way we want to deal with a situation but, Bullying is the cause of a lot of the school shootings that have occured and it is time for the parents and school to be held accountable in the acts that happen in our schools."
08/27/2007:
"I think the teachers should be more aware and involved so if there is any type of altercation the teacher can step in instead of the student having to run to the teacher because believe me, that is much worse for the kids"
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