Research shows children who have regular family meals are less likely to bully other children and more likely to talk to their parents if they are being bullied themselves. This hit home with us at dinner one day last winter, when I noticed my 8th grade son wasn’t his usual happy self. I asked him how school had gone that day and got the typical teen answer of “fine.” As the conversation progressed, and I asked him specifically about one of his classes and he said, “I really don’t like that class anymore.”
I was surprised, but he revealed that a boy in that class was bullying him; making fun of him in front of the class and calling him names. His opening up gave us a chance to talk about different ways he could respond to this bully, and if the situation was at the point where I needed to talk to the teacher. My son felt, with some of the tips we had given him, that he could handle it. Over the next few weeks we checked in with him regularly to make sure the situation was resolved. We also had conversations about how my son should respond when the bully moved on to bullying another child in front of the class.
One of the best benefits about the family table is that it gives children a safe place to open up. Starting a conversation at the table about bullying can start with questions like, “What’s it like to ride your bus?” or “What do you think parents can do to stop bullying?” or “What’s your lunch time like? Who do you sit with?” To help start the conversation about bullying download conversation cards or for a quick list of tips visit stopbullying.gov
Holli Seabury, CEO
McMillen Center for Health Education