My eleven-year-old son recently shared that he’s being bullied at school because of bruising caused by his bleeding disorder. How can I help him educate his classmates about hemophilia and prevent future bullying? As much as I want to protect my son, I also know that I need to empower him to speak up for himself.
This is an important question and one HFA often hears from both parents and kids. Talking to your child about bullying and giving them the tools to handle difficult situations with their peers is critical, especially because you can’t always be there to protect them. HFA’s Bullying Prevention Toolkit includes resources on addressing bullying for kids with bleeding disorders and other special health needs. Use these steps to educate and empower your child to speak up for themselves:
- Assure your child they are never alone in dealing with this issue. Ask your child about friends or adults they are comfortable talking with at school. Whom do they trust? When an issue arises, encourage your child to go to this person as an on-site resource.
- Talk with your child about bullying and how it differs from teasing. While you don’t want to trivialize bullying, distinguishing between the two terms is important, as teasing can be misconstrued. Use this article from Understood.org to help guide the conversation.
- Reach out to your local school system to see if they have a policy on bullying and resources for families. Stopbullying.gov offers guidance for schools on creating policies and rules, if they are not already in place.
- Encourage your child to take an assertive approach to addressing the antagonizer. If your child is comfortable talking about hemophilia, they can explain what causes bruising for people with bleeding disorders. Your child could also ask their teacher for time to do a presentation on bleeding disorders to educate everyone or as part of a class project.
- Empower your child to advocate for themselves and other students who may be experiencing similar issues at school.
- Circle back with your child to see how they’re doing. What was the outcome of their conversation with the antagonizer? Has the bullying continued?
- It goes without saying, but step in if the bullying persists. Work with your child’s school to determine the best course of action.
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HFA frequently receives questions from the bleeding disorders community related to advocacy issues. The questions often impact the entire community. In an effort to reach the largest audience possible with our responses to these widely applicable questions, HFA developed “Dear Addy.” Questions submitted to this column are edited in order to protect privacy and should be considered educational only, not individual guidance