After-School Activities

The After School Bully: What to Do, When to Leave

It may not be common, but it’s possible for kids to encounter bullies in after school programs, too. Here’s what to do (and when to find something new).

By Katie Femia

While all bullying situations are different, approaching them with reason as well as a sense of urgency can help calm and diffuse them, allowing your child to better focus on the tasks at hand. Here are some tips that I have adapted from the anti-bullying protocol that was followed at school during the 10 years I served as a teacher. They are designed not only to help you solve the bullying issue for your child, but also to give your child the inner resources and information they need so they can solve future bullying situations on their own.

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1. Gather plenty of background information

The first step in dealing with bullying is to find out who is involved. You should know the names of the perpetrators as well as all of the children being bullied. You might find out that your child is not the only victim. It is also important to know where the bullying is taking place, such as in a restroom, locker room, hallway, or classroom. This information will be helpful when you talk to the supervisor of the program. So how do you find this out? Encourage your child to talk to you about what is happening. Wait until you are in a space where they feel safe, such as their own home or a favorite restaurant. Gently encourage them to tell you what is happening, who is involved, and how they would like to see the situation resolved.

Also ask what your child has done to solve the issue so far. For example, ask which adults they have spoken to and what actions they have already taken. This can help you best decide where to start when approaching the issue with the after school program’s supervisor. Be sure you take notes as you speak with your child so no detail is missed or overlooked.

2. Give your child options

Even before you are able to discuss the issue with the adult who oversees the program, it is good to give your child some options to use when dealing with bullies. Let your child know that they deserve to feel safe, to be safe, and to enjoy the program — just like the rest of the students. Encourage them to find friends they feel comfortable with and secure with, so they are never alone. (Being alone gives bullies a chance to move in on them.) Make sure your child reports any physical confrontations to an adult staffer immediately and continues to report other bullying behavior as well.

If the bullying is more of the verbal kind, let them know it is okay to walk away. Tell your child that they don’t have to tolerate the behavior. Also work with your child to build their self-esteem: Encourage them to tell you what they love or enjoy about themselves; kids with self-confidence are harder targets for bullies.

3. Meet with the program director

Take the information you now have and meet with the director of the after school program as soon as possible. The staff needs to be made aware of the situation and how it is interfering with your child’s experience in the program. Ask what other complaints about the child have been brought to their attention at this point, and what the director has done to deal with such complaints. Once the information is provided to the director, arrange for a follow-up meeting so you can discuss the progress. This lets the director know you are serious about remedying the situation, and that you wish for there to be not only accountability but also a resolution to the bullying.

4. Observe the after school program

If your child is telling you they are being bullied, it is sometimes wise to spend time observing them at the program. This lets both the staff and the bullies know that you are keeping an eye on the situation. It also gives you a chance to see how the program is operating and how your child is operating within it. Observing can also help you identify children that your child may consider a friend or ally, which you can then encourage a friendship with.

5. Be sure to follow up

Decide when you think a sufficient amount of time has passed after your meeting with the supervisor, then follow up on the situation. First and foremost, meet with your child to see how they feel things are going. Ask if they notice any changes in the bully’s behavior, if they feel more comfortable in the program, and if the bullying has lessened or stopped. Now is also the time to talk to the directors of the program and see what changes have been made to ensure the safety of all of the children in the program.

Hopefully, you will see changes that you are pleased with and your child will decide to continue on in the program. If the bullying is not resolved and the after school provider does not seem to be invested in remedying it, you may want to find another program for your child. If this is the case, it is important to let the staff know the reason for your decision. If they are made aware that people are leaving the program as a result of bullying, they may finally realize how serious the issue is and, at last, take more serious steps to address the problem.

When It’s Time to Leave

Kids find new after school activities for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they don’t mesh well with the group, perhaps they’ve outgrown the program in age or ability, or sometimes they just want to try something new. Whenever you find yourself at this kind of after school crossroads, be sure to let >ActivityHero help you check out the hundreds of options in your area!