Bullying: What to do When Your Grandchild Needs Help
BY James Ryan
Though increasingly less tolerated, incidences of bullying and extreme bullying are happening at alarming levels, and they can have devastating, lasting consequences for all involved—victim, bystander, and bully. Bullying can lead to issues with both mental and physical health. No one wants it to exist, but we don’t often observe it directly. That’s why it’s important to allow children the chance to speak.
“…there are times when all of the best efforts of the family do nothing to stop them from being victimized by bullies.”
As we come upon the holiday season and winter break, this is a great opportunity to allow your grandchildren to open up. As they take a break from school and are more fully enveloped by the comforts of home, they may let their guard down a bit. This is another time when being a grandparent is often better than being the parent—kids are often more willing to speak candidly with someone who they don’t view as a disciplinarian.
With any luck, they’ll be happy, well-adjusted, non-victimized kids. Yet, BullyingCanada still directly helps more than seventy-five-thousand youth each year. Thus, unfortunately, there are times when all of the best efforts of the family do nothing to stop them from being victimized by bullies.
Most of the calls BullyingCanada get can be described as nightmarish, but they’re all certainly emotionally taxing. Those volunteers working on the support team endure a rollercoaster of emotions on any given day. Rob Benn-Frenette shares some relatively recent stories:
Though our calls aren’t typically this grim, last year, I picked up the phone when a middle-schooler called BullyingCanada to ask that a final message be relayed to her parents when they got home, because she didn’t want a younger sibling to find her first. She had slit her wrists and was hiding in her bedroom closet. Why? Because her tormenters told her to do so. Thankfully, we were able to get emergency personnel to her in time to save her life.
I remember another incident where a boy called us after seeing our television commercial; he was desperate to escape this torment. This six-year-old and I talked for about two hours—he told me his heartbreaking story about being bullied continuously, pushed and shoved on the playground, and continually teased. We were able to address and resolve his situation. After, he reached out to ask if we could meet for him to say thank you. We usually don’t meet our clients (we had just over 76,000 last year), but I made an exception in his case. Speaking to him reminded me that this is why I do what I do.
These grim calls are examples of what we hear on a daily basis—it’s vital to catch these issues before they devolve into situations like that. BullyingCanada supports these tens of thousands of abused youth with a robust network of volunteers who are trained in resolving, and coping with, these situations. Myriad resources are made available to children and to school administrators across the nation.
If you suspect something may be going on based on what your grandchild says or changes in behaviour, talk to them. Have them talk to us. There is always hope.
BullyingCanada manages to do all of this, and more, on a limited budget that supports its volunteers with the necessary resources to provide the crucial help to bullied youth. If you need help or you wish to support this registered charity by donating or volunteering, please visit them online at www.BullyingCanada.ca or call (877) 352-4497.
Bullying is devastating, dangerous, illegal, and unacceptable. Don’t be a passive observer, if you see it: say something.
Tips for Grandparents
Know what’s going on and openly communicate with your grandchild
Regularly ask about your grandkid’s friendships (keep in mind they may describe bullying behavior without calling it that) and their school experience
Listen without judgment
Remember that it’s not up to the child to fix the situation (if they could, they wouldn’t seek help from adults)
If your grandchild is experiencing bullying, talk with their parents and urge them to contact their teacher(s) and their school—to hold them accountable for behavior at school—and offer them access to support resources, such as those provided by BullyingCanada.
James Ryan is the Director of Public Relations for BullyingCanada Inc, which is Canada’s premier—and first youth-created—anti-bullying charity. Founded by Rob Benn-Frenette, O.N.B., and Katie Thompson (Neu) in 2006, BullyingCanada has served hundreds of thousands of youth across the country by, amongst other initiatives, providing individual support, extensive resources, case management, scholarships, and presentations to schools and organizations.
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