Advice from psychologist, author and TV personality Dale Atkins, Ph.D.
Q: What should parents do if a child has been bullied?
A: Children who have been targeted may be embarrassed to share what happened or is happening. Notice if they have changed in any way—eating, sleeping, withdrawal from friends, depression, anxiety, personality changes, etc. Be sure the child is safe and knows you are his or her advocate. If they want to handle the situation on their own, be a caring and supportive coach who listens and guides, but do not let a situation continue, since the aggressor only becomes empowered and the target only becomes more vulnerable.
Q: What can parents do to raise children who treat others with respect?
A: Treat that child respectfully and listen to them. Help them realize it is essential to attempt to understand how someone else feels in a certain situation and how you would feel in a similar situation. When you can truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you will be more likely to treat others with kindness, fairness and respect.
Q: How might parents raise a child who is less likely to become a target of bullying?
A: Be conscious of raising a child who can speak up for him or herself. Encourage and listen to your child’s opinions. Teach children ways to address difficult situations; try role-playing. Additionally, when you read books, watch movies or TV shows with “teachable moments,” discuss alternative ways a character might have handled a situation. Sometimes children need to have adults offer alternative solutions that children do not see themselves.
Q: How do these suggestions tie into ADL’s education programs?
ADL education programs focus on community and helping children appreciate that each of us has a responsibility to the other. By appreciating what is behind bigotry and why it is important to stand up for those who are being hurt, programs such as ADL’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute for schools, colleges, workplaces and communities help ameliorate stereotyping and exclusionary behaviors, and focus on the value of diversity and cultural difference.
Q: Why are you involved with ADL?
A: I have been involved with ADL for nearly 25 years because I believe in its mission to inform people about and stand up to anti-Semitism, bigotry and all forms of extremism, and provide justice for all people. I was raised in a part of New Jersey with few minorities and where, in some areas, Jews, blacks and Italians were unwelcome to buy property and/or become part of the community. I remember being insulted by a neighborhood playmate when I was a little girl and then again when I entered 7th grade. My parents made it clear to the school that this was unacceptable. Quite aware of the civil rights movement as well as the horrors of World War II—most of my Jewish friends from the next town were the children of Holocaust survivors—it was imperative that I not stand for any expression of bigotry or hatred of anyone because of race, religion, sexual orientation or background.