Bullying is a problem that has been around for decades, and preschool bullying is no exception. Kids who are bullied in preschool can experience lasting mental health issues and even suicide risks later on in life.
But the good news is you can take steps to prevent bullying from happening in your family or school by understanding what it looks like and how to stop it.
In this post, we’re going to talk about bullying prevention tips, signs of bullying, ways parents can help their child cope with being bullied at school, and the consequences of this type of behavior including mental health issues and suicide risk.
What is Preschool Bullying?
Preschool bullying is a type of aggression that preschoolers use to dominate or control others. It can involve physical violence, verbal taunts, social exclusion, or any behavior that makes the victim feel uncomfortable, scared, or powerless.
Bullying usually starts when one child tries to gain power over another by using aggressive tactics like teasing, name-calling, or pushing.
Preschoolers are often unaware of the impact that bullying has on their peers. They may not understand why they’re being bullied and will likely experience varying degrees of distress if it continues over time. Preschool bullies usually lack empathy for others’ feelings, which means preschool bullying can be especially painful to victims because they don’t understand why the preschool bully is doing this to them.
Though preschool bullying may not yet be fully understood by preschoolers, it can have long-term effects on their lives and relationships if they don’t learn how to deal with it in a healthy way. Preschool bullies are also at risk for academic difficulties, substance abuse, and other problems.
The Bully, The Victim & The Bystander
There are three “players” in a bullying situation and educators need to be able to determine who falls into which category and build an effective strategy that will help each group. This means teaching children the skills they need to both prevent and respond to bullying behavior.
A research study of five-year-olds showed that children are less likely to take action and help others when other kids are around, and it’s been suggested that this is because they feel less responsibility.
This is where educators need to model good behavior. The study’s lead author, Maria Plötner says, “It might be a good idea to teach children about the bystander effect and its consequences, and responsibility in helping situations, from early in development. It could be helpful if authorities model helping in bystander situations so that children learn about the positive consequences of such actions.”
Signs of Preschool Bullying
There are several signs that may indicate your child is being bullied in preschool. If your child comes home from school with bruises, scratches, or cuts; has torn clothing; or complains of pain, he or she may be a victim of bullying. Additionally, if your child seems anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive, or violent after attending preschool or preschool drop-off, he or she may be the target of preschool bullying. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior at school, talk with his or her preschool teacher right away to find out what is happening during preschool hours.
Further, signs that a child has been bullied include complaints about being ill often and having stomach aches frequently. Bullied preschoolers may also avoid school or have difficulty sleeping. They often have low self-esteem and feel sad, lonely, helpless, and scared. As a result of the bullying, some preschoolers develop anxiety disorders, social phobias, or depression. In very rare cases, victims of preschool bullying may even consider suicide. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, it’s important to talk to him or her about what is happening and provide support.
Tips How to Handle
Preschool bullying can be a very serious problem, and it’s important to take steps to prevent and stop it as early as possible. Here are some preschool bullying tips to help you.
- If your child has been bullied, or if he/she has seen someone else bully, tell the teacher right away. The teacher can help
- If bullying persists, talk to your child’s teacher about the best way to handle it. For example, you might want to have a plan in place that sets out the action taken depending on how serious each incident is
- Reassure your child that preschool bullying is not their fault.
- Help your child develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or talking with a trusted adult.
- Encourage your preschooler to stand up for themselves by telling the bully that their behavior is not okay.
- If preschool bullying becomes too stressful, encourage your child to avoid the bully by staying home from school or changing preschools.
- Make sure your child knows that there are adults they can talk to if they are being bullied, such as a teacher, school counselor, or parent.
- If your child is being bullied online, make sure they know not to share personal information and to block the bully’s account.
- Avoid preschool bullying by encouraging your preschooler to talk with you about their feelings.
- Help your preschooler resolve conflicts in a peaceful way.
- Teach your preschooler about empathy and how to respect others’ feelings.
- Create a home environment that is free of preschool bullying.
- If your preschooler is being bullied by another preschooler, support them in telling the bully’s parent.
- Make sure your preschooler knows they can talk to you anytime about preschool bullying.
- Encourage preschoolers and their families to seek preschool bullying help if needed.
- If your preschooler is being bullied by an adult, encourage them to find a trusted teacher or school counselor to talk about the situation.
- Show your child how to act brave and walk away from the situation (this will help prevent them from becoming a repeat victim)
- Many schools have anti-bullying programs, learn more about them, and help advocate for anti-bullying education.
I hope this post has helped you to better understand preschool bullying and the steps you can take as a parent to help your child. If it does not, please do not hesitate to reach out for more guidance with any concerns about how your child is behaving at school or what could be causing these behaviors in the first place. We want all our children to grow up happy and healthy!
Sara is a freelance writer, award winning parenting blogger, and public relations specialist from Toronto, Canada. She is mother to fraternal girl/boy twins, loves music, hiking, and offbeat pop culture.