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Dear Dr. Cherrye,
Back to school is double trouble with both COVID-19 and Bullying. Last year, one of my children had a rough year with bullies, so ending the school in March due to COVID-19 was a bit relieving at the time. But, having to start back-to-school with the fears of COVID-19 now puts layers of turmoil in the minds of my children. I know there are others bearing the same anxieties. It’s saddens me as a parent. I mean, the same issue that made my children happy to end school is now adding more problems to their young lives. What more can parents do, Dr. Cherrye?
I’ve contemplated your question in my mind for weeks now as the start of school is approaching. Our school administrators and leaders are working around the clock trying to determine the best course of action for school re-openings. Dr. Cherrye does not believe there are clear-cut answers, but I know that there are approaches that can be taken to ease the anxieties that yours and other children all over will face during the school year.
From an educator’s perspective and advocate against bullying, I realize that both these issues are complex. Parents and educators alike will have to become very clever and calculated in their approaches to the matters of bullying coupled with COVID-19. It’s going to be a doozy-of-a-year.
WHAT WE DO KNOW
Some families have dealt with economic issues during this on-going pandemic. You’ll find students returning to school who may have had parents losing their jobs, visiting food banks for the first time ever, getting in long lines at food give-away centers noticing their parents popping their trunks to receive portions of foods in boxes, domestic violence issues due to the rise in frustrations, tired of home routines, or no routines at all, and just down-right down-trodden due to several different variables we may never have expected in our life time, much less theirs.
Knowing this, the adults in children’s lives will need to be cognitively aware of their student’s/children’s mental and emotional states. Our children are our greatest stakeholder assets, and they depend on us, the adults, to shelter them from hurt and harm. This sometimes means that we must put our own fears aside as we perform our duties to children. Too, we must keep in mind that bullying will certainly ‘raise its dirty head’ because let’s face it, some children can be mean. Some children, (due to their current circumstances, and no fault of their own) who appear to be less fortunate will indeed get teased by no other than the school/classroom bully. Whenever this happens – ACT FAST. I’ll get back to bullying down below giving you tips of what to do.
Being cognizant of what our children/students are feeling doesn’t mean that we should not take care of ourselves. What this does mean is this: All involved must also remember that teachers and administrators are people, too. We will undoubtedly encounter many adults who are also anxious about the ongoing pandemic, so the adults will have to keep their emotions in-check as they interact with children. Teachers and educators, you must remember to take care of yourselves. This may include thinking about how to destress in smarter ways. Teachers – If you have fussy parents and/or children coming through the threshold of your door steps learn the art of de-escalation. Remember, you are the professionals assigned to classrooms working with eager children. Be sure to restore your pedagogy skills. Parents – you have a responsibility in de-escalation as well. Be sure to approach school officials using the same behavioral skills you’d be proud for your children to see you exhibit. Be mindful of your social and role modeling skills.
Teachers/Parents – If you don’t do these things already, think about the following:
–Healthy eating – You can start slow and build up. Just change your diet by removing toxins and free radicals from your body
–Exercise – You do not have to go outside your home spending monies to achieve this. Carve out the perimeter of your home inside or out, set your timer, and walk 30 minutes daily. You can also opt to do chair exercises. There are plenty YouTube videos that will show you how.
–Water – Drink plenty of water and keep hydrated
–Classical Music – Play soothing music to help relax
–Candle – You’d be surprised at how candles help you mellow-out
–Bubble Bath – Throw a bath bomb in the bath with your favorite calming fragrance
–Tea – Drink your favorite tea (suggestions: green, peppermint, or chamomile)
–Sleep – Don’t cheat yourself on rest. Get 8-9 hours of sleep nightly
–Alarm Clock – Set your alarm clock so that you are not rushed
Teachers and educators go ahead and pull out your Social Emotional Learning skills and tools as you interact with children. Yes! Educators will be expected to help children manage their anxieties. Teachers should express and be able to visibly show their empathy for their students and their families. Many campuses have counselors, and social workers on staff who can help assist when issues arise. These skilled personnel will have the necessary resources needed to help families in need, so don’t be shy about accessing these resources. Each campus may have a different name and/or title for these resources, so please investigate and make your inquiries known.
Parents – You also have a duty toward your children’s teachers and school administrators. Remember, teachers are human, too, and many have endured the same negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic just as you, your children and family have, so your empathy towards your child’s teacher(s) is widely welcome. By taking this advice, both parties will be sure to reduce tensions while maintaining the positive relationships needed maximizing communication while preserving positive relationships throughout the school year.
By now, most school districts have informed parents of how school will start in the fall. Parents will choose whether their children will remain at home learning on online, or face-to-face. For various reasons, this decision is personal from family-to-family and for good reasons. Every family has their own dynamic and functionality. What works for some, may not work for others, but the ultimate goal is safety which includes LIFE!
Parents will send their children to school prepared to learn with the necessary school supplies, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such masks, sanitizers, Kleenex, and the like. School officials will have these supplies on hand for those families who cannot afford them. We have to trust that everyone will do their part. Please also teach children about the seriousness of this pandemic. I’m not sure how you can do this without putting fear in them, but they must be taught rules. These rules must include social distancing, the use of wearing masks (how to put the on and off), what to do if they have to sneeze or cough, how to apply sanitizers, what to do when they’re eating whether in the cafeteria or classroom, and the importance of washing their hands.
Teachers – Make learning how to wear masks fun! There are some that are solid colors. You can use these for Pre-k and Kindergarteners as you teach the color of the day.
Parents – Be sure to label your children’s masks and/or face shields (if appropriate). Teach them prior to school how to safely put them on and off.
NO TIME FOR BULLYING
With the stressors of starting school during this ongoing pandemic, there will be no time for bullying. We must Stomp Out Bullying. Parents, if you suspect that your child is a school/class bully, please have a heart-to-heart talk with him/her. By now, all school officials and administrators should have a zero tolerance for bullying with guidelines in place that should be adhered to. This will be a rocky school year, so all parties need to concentrate on academics and not have to put out bully fires. If your child is a victim of bullying, do not hesitate to speak up and out. Be sure to document issues whether verbal or physical to include time, date, witnesses, location, and the details of what occurred. I suggest legal as a last resort, but it may come down to lawyering up if bullying persists. I talk about this more in my FREE parent resource titled, ‘A Bully Band Parents in Rhythm’ and I used these tips when my own child experienced bullying in grade school from both children and teachers (believe the latter, or not).
AS TIME MOVES ON
As time moves on throughout the school year, do not be afraid of change. Paradigm shifts and change are good if what you’re doing isn’t working or helping children progress in positive ways. You may have a new ‘take’ or perspective to ‘bring to the table’ – if so, speak up. All parties, including parents, must reassess where they are in the moment. No one should fear change or the need to re-tweak a policy after looking at results or outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask yourselves these questions: Are children thriving in their current environment? Are they learning? Are they happy? Am I checking their emotional state?
Keep your ears opened and your eyes keen as you listen and observe your students/children. What are they saying to you and/or their classmates/neighborhood friends/relatives/siblings? What are they drawing during art, or free draw time, or at home? What does their writing say after your prompts? How are they interacting on the playground, on play dates, in small learning groups, or with cousins at home? Teachers – What are the ancillary teachers reporting back to you after music, P.E., art and computer classes? Make note of anything that’s suspicious, or any sudden changes that will alert you that a child may be at risk for trouble.
If your child, or a family that you know and love are experiencing bullying troubles, I’d like for you to read my book, ‘A Bully Blueprint Solutions for Kids‘. Within this guide you’ll find the information, tools and a chart needed to help combat the plagues of bullying.
ADDITIONAL DE-STRESSING RESOURCES/ITEMS MAY INCLUDE, BUT ARE LIMITED TO:
9. LifeAround2Angels Bath Bombs Gift Set 12 USA made Fizzies, Shea & Coco Butter Dry Skin Moisturize, Perfect for Bubble & Spa Bath. Handmade Birthday Mothers day Gifts idea For Her/Him, wife, girlfriend
I’ve made it my mission to assist parents in resolving the bullying issues their children are suffering. Offering your feedback and suggestions in the comment section could facilitate meaningful dialog on this critical issue among ourselves and I encourage this. I will respond to each comment in a timely way. Should you wish to speak privately with me, please email be at CherryeVasquez@gmail.com, and I will reply promptly.
Use my free resources, Self-Identity Worksheet: Sharing My Goals & Positive Attributes and The Bully Band: Parents in Rhythm as tools to help you help your child with bullying, and to help build your child’s self-esteem.