In many ways, homeschooled children are lucky. They don’t have to worry about bullying nearly as much as their traditionally schooled peers. Most of their interactions are much more closely observed by teachers, parents, and other responsible adults; and since social interaction (with people who aren’t their siblings) tends to be a lesser part of their days, they don’t have to constantly weigh the attitudes of their peers. They also have the ability to remove unhealthy interactions from their days simply by ceasing an activity or choosing not to join a particular group—something that public schooled students can’t do.
Bullying, however, is ever-present, and it’s something that homeschooled children need to discuss and consider seriously. They will inevitably be part of some social group or another, and the last thing any parent wants to discover is that their child is being bullied in silence—or that their child is the bully. Teaching them about bullying early will help to ensure that they don’t find themselves in either position, at least not for long, and certainly not without warning.
Remind them that if everyone isn’t laughing, it isn’t funny. Too many times, children—especially children who are eager to fit in—will join in teasing that is genuinely hurtful to another, no matter how well-intentioned it may seem. Also, teach them the difference between a child who is laughing because they genuinely think something is funny, and one who is laughing because a response of anger or tears would bring further teasing.
Discuss what to do when they feel they are being bullied. Include such phrases as, “I don’t think that’s funny,” and, “That really hurts my feelings.” Also, teach them to separate from a group and go to an adult when necessary. No child should have to suffer bullying in order to simply be “cool.”
Talk about standing up for others. Discuss why everyone should be included, and how a child who is excluded from the group might feel. Help them to walk in another’s shoes, at least briefly.
Make it an ongoing dialogue. The more you discuss issues like bullying, the more likely your children are to tell you if they see inappropriate behavior taking place. Discussing it frequently makes it more likely that you’ll be able to step in and stop bad behavior before it’s too late.