Bullying: Starting the Conversation
By Virginia Hartman
On the subject of bullying, parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, and school administrators sometimes find themselves needing to ask children difficult but
One of those questions might be “Are you scared to go to school because you are afraid of being bullied?” Trying to start a dialogue with a “loaded” question like that, however, often fails to encourage a child to talk about his or her actual experiences in the schoolyard.
To help, SAMHSA recently updated Conversation Starter Cards, a set of more than 50 laminated 3.5- by 4.5-inch cards that offer many ways to begin a dialogue. The purpose of this tool is to help decrease bullying and increase a child's mental well-being.
The cards are part of SAMHSA's 15+ Make Time to Listen ... Take Time to Talk—About Bullying program. The campaign encourages parents to take a minimum of 15 minutes per day to spend quality time talking and listening to their children.
A companion booklet, Bullying is Not a Fact of Life, helps continue the conversation. The booklet helps dispel myths about schoolyard behavior, and continues the
goals of the ongoing Safe Schools/Healthy Students campaign.
The booklet’s prevention program outlines four essential points for concerned adults:
- Identify the problem. An anonymous survey called the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire helps gather concrete information about bullying in the individual school.
- Create a plan. Parents and teachers use this information to design interventions, including improved supervision of break times and individual work with students who have been identified as bullies and victims.
- Set rules. Teachers and students work together to establish and reinforce a set of rules about bullying, thereby creating a positive, anti-bullying climate.
- Provide supports. Finally, parents and teachers must cooperate to provide effective protection to victims of bullying.