As the author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, Rachel Simmons knows a thing or two about bullying, and now she’s partnering with Secret Deodorant to help parents get educated on the subject, and combat it.
“Many children resist telling their parents when they’re being bullied, so it’s important to look for more subtle signs,” she tells PEOPLE.
“Does your previously phone and computer-addicted child no longer want to be online or texting? Does he not want to go to school? Children may also begin talking about themselves negatively or start lashing out at you or their siblings.”
If it seems that your child has been targeted, Simmons advises approaching the topic from the point of view of the victim.
“Remember to empathize with his experience,” she says. “It takes enormous courage to walk the halls of a school every day where you don’t feel safe. Recognize and honor that; it will mean the world to your child.”
Secondly, give your children the time and opportunity to think of what to do next.
“Ask your child what he wants to do about it,” Simmons says. “This is an opportunity for your child to think through his options and practice thinking about his strategies. If you do all the work for him, he will not learn how to respond to stress on his own.”
In addition to addressing personal bullying, Simmons also encourages parents to teach their children how to stand up for others.
“Telling isn’t tattling; it’s reporting a problem to help someone in need,” she says. “When we don’t stand up in the face of bullying, we ultimately endorse the behavior. You can communicate this to your child. Strength in numbers also always helps. Try to get a friend to be an ally and stand up together.”
Ultimately, the best way to bring about an end to bullying, be it something personally experienced or happening to someone you know, is simply for children to realize it’s best to not participate.
“You can make your world safer right now by gossiping for good,” Simmons says. “Nice is contagious. Pass it on.”
– Kiran Hefa