Bullying is one of the most prevalent stressors of a child’s life, but when you and your former partner have divorced, it’s difficult to have a clear idea of how to address the situation. Regardless of how close you’ve stayed with your ex, you’ll need to collaborate with them to give your child the best possibility of ending the bullying and getting back to life as usual.
Open a Clear Line of Communication
Whether you hold primary custody or your child told you about the bullying first during a visit, your ex deserves to know what’s going on. If you were on the other side, you would want to know what’s happening with your child, positive or otherwise, so be open and honest about what’s happened. As new developments occur, good or bad, keep your co-parent updated so they know when and how to talk to your child about it.
Depending on your circumstances, you can either call your ex or schedule a time to get together in person. At this time, it’s alright to be human and discuss how you’re feeling, but remember to keep the conversation constructive so the two of you can find a solution or create a game plan for the future. As your child continues going to school, both of you will be familiar with the bullying situation, so your school will be able to call either of you when necessary and not blindside anyone with relevant updates.
Look to Your Support System
Bullying is a difficult situation to face as a parent, especially when you’re separated from your co-parent. In these emotionally charged situations, it may feel easy to fall into the old pattern of looking for support and comfort in your ex; however, that isn’t their role in your life any longer, and nor is it your role in theirs. Instead, reach out to the rest of your support system, i.e. your parents, siblings, and friends. When you have emotional support coming from these healthy spaces, you’ll have an easier time communicating with your ex to find the right solution for your child.
Prioritize Your Child’s Mental Health
As a parent, one of your first concerns when you hear your child is being bullied is about their safety. However, the psychological repercussions are often the most prevalent and can follow a person throughout their life, well into adulthood. Once you’ve confirmed their physical safety and health, sit down with both your child and co-parent to discuss their emotional and mental wellbeing–with a therapist, school counselor, or Albuquerque family lawyer, if need be. If you know your child’s reaction to the bullying, whether it’s fear, anger, or something else, you’ll know how to talk with them about the bully moving forward.
Depending on how long you and your ex have been divorced, it’s also vital to consider your child’s current mental health state before you decide how you want to approach the bullying situation. If your child is feeling uneasy or hesitant around one parent, consider having them talk to the other more. Additionally, if the relationship between your child and your ex seems strained, know that it’s okay to be the outlet for your child to talk about their bullying. After you’ve heard what they had to say, you can relay the necessary information to your ex when it’s time to include them.
Organize Meetings with the School
Plan to schedule meetings with the school where your child is being bullied to discuss what happened, how it was handled, and how the administration and teachers plan to deal with the bully moving forward. Ideally, both you and your ex should be present for this meeting, so it’s a good practice to meet beforehand to discuss your concerns and game plan to act as a cohesive team. With both of you present, ask to review the school’s bullying policies so you can both be familiar with, or fill any holes if one of you forgets or misremembers something.
While there, it’s important to set expectations with school administrators about who will be the primary contact should something happen. Typically, this is the parent with primary custody of the child, but you can also provide context where necessary. For example, if you are the primary parent but aren’t available on Tuesdays, you can request a note be taken to call your ex first on those off days.
As you collaborate and work together with your co-parent to help your child through being bullied, remember that even if you sought divorce, you can still be a united force when it comes to your child’s health and safety. If the situation is serious enough to call for it, consider contacting the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer for guidance on a legal course of action. Our Albuquerque family law attorneys are here to help you and your ex seek the best legal approach to any of your family’s bullying situations.