Bullying is a topic that consistently comes up every time I speak with parents of children with hearing loss. Bullying is a serious problem in many U.S. schools; it is estimated that 30 percent of students in grades 6-10 have been involved in some sort of bullying incident (Coloroso, 2004). Missing from the above statistic is the number of children with disabilities who are targeted. Researchers suggests that children with observable disabilities (such as the hearing aids and cochlear implant processors that our children wear) may be twice as likely to be bullied (Sullivan, 2006).
I recently wrote an article on Bullying and Hearing Loss for Volta Voices magazine. Research for the piece showed that while there has been an increase of anti-bullying programs implemented at the school, district, and state level, these programs tend to emphasize what will happen after an incident. Experts I spoke with stated that while this was a good start there also need to be an emphasis on developing resiliency within children so they are better equipped to deal with a bullying situation.
What is Resiliency?
Resiliency is the ability to “spring back” from challenges and disappointments – whether it’s being upset at a poor report card, being excluded from a friend’s birthday, or standing up to a schoolyard bully. While these situations can be emotionally painful, they are also opportunities for growth and building your child’s sense of confidence.
How to Help Your Child
Researchers suggest that everyone has a built-in capacity for resiliency. However, this capacity needs to be nurtured and strengthened in children by providing them with support and resiliency building opportunities.
Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to provide the conditions and experiences for resiliency to develop. Here are some suggestions to help you along the way:
- Surround your child with supportive people: the more people your child feels connected to in the community the greater the chance she will feel supported and know who to turn to if she needs help.
- Check your attitude: coming to term’s with your child’s diagnosis can be difficult, however he can easily sense if you are frustrated or have negative emotions towards his hearing loss. Make sure your own attitude is one of acceptance and optimism.
- Develop “life” skills: These skills include -social skills, and emotional skills. Provide your child with opportunities to be social with children who have hearing loss and children who have typical hearing. Develop friendships with children at school, in the neighborhood, or from different clubs and activities that she participates in.
- Let your child grow: Don’t always be there to rush in to solve your child’s problems. Providing the space for him to develop problem solving skills is one of the best ways to help him become more resilient. Help him make a plan or find a solution for challenges he may face.
- Realistic self-esteem: everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Help your child to understand her weaknesses and limitations and also help her recognize her strong points and talents. She might need some extra help to hear, but she also could be a prolific artist and kick-butt rock climber.
Coloroso, B (2004) The Bully, the bullied, and the bystander: From preschool to highschool – how teachers and parents can help break the cycle. New York: Collins Living.
Sullivan, P. (2006) Children with disabilities exposed to violence: Legal and public policy issues. In M. Feerick and G. Silverman (Eds), Children Exposed to Violence. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing.