Lunchtime at school should be a time for our kids to re-fuel and relax, but can also be a prime atmosphere for bullying. Bullies can pick on kids for many things in the lunchroom, and surprisingly that includes what is – or is not – in their lunchbox. Whether the “cool” thing at your kids’ school is carrots, cupcakes or candy corn, knowing how to respond when a classmate teases (or worse) about the contents of one’s lunch can be an important skill.
Some ideas to consider when helping your kids have a happy lunch experience:
- Get them involved in lunch. Whether your kids eat the lunch provided by the cafeteria or bring a lunch from home, encourage them to be involved in the decision. If you pay for lunch at school, talk to them about money, what it’s worth, where it came from and what it can buy. If your kids take their lunch, have them help decide what goes in it and assist in preparing it. The Tasty Hummus Sandwich or Fruity Pita Sandwiches are both great lunchbox recipes that your kids can assist in preparing.
- Develop a script. One of the things I often tell my clients is that preparing a statement or a script can help in tough situations. For example, if your child knows another student always comments on their meals, you can help her memorize a statement in response. This way she won’t have to think of something to say in the moment when she is nervous, stressed and put on the spot. Something like, “You know, I like what’s in my lunchbox,” can be all it takes to make her point and communicate to the bully to back off.
- Discuss alternatives. It’s amazing how many of us can get caught in a rut, unable to think about alternative ways of behaving when we are anxious. If your child is being bullied at lunch, help him think of other ways to spend the lunch hour. These might include sitting with a different group of kids, making new friends or changing the way he responds to the bully. While I don’t think bullies should be allowed to make kids abandon things or people they enjoy, it can be helpful to look at the situation creatively to help determine effective solutions.
- Determine when help is required. Many schools have structured responses to bullying and bullying curricula for their students. As a parent of a child being bullied, it is okay to ask your child’s teacher or principal how they recommend your child respond. Does your school have key words or phrases they use around bullying that all the kids understand? How long should your child try to manage the bully on their own? At what point should the lunchroom attendant, a teacher or the principal be called in? Becoming well informed about the school’s procedures and protocols around bullying will allow you to assist your child with coming up with solutions in the most effective way.