When young children are bullied, the parents who care for them are also affected. Yet their experiences are understudied. This qualitative phenomenological study explored elementary school bullying from the parent’s perspective. In-depth interviews were conducted with six mothers to explore how parents understand bullying as well as to gather descriptions of their experiences supporting their children and interacting with school personnel. Three inter-twined themes emerged from the phenomenological analysis: “personal responsibility”, “difference” and “isolation”. Parents in this study tended to take on a high degree of personal responsibility for their children’s social plights and strongly felt their role was to support their children and stop the bullying. All the children were diagnosed or had a suspected diagnosis of ADHD, anxiety or a learning disability. Parents indicated that their child’s difference and inability to fit into the school environment made them vulnerable to bullying. Parents experienced feelings of isolation as they tried to fulfill their parental responsibility. Although the findings suggest these parents were concerned with their children’s ability to feel a sense of belonging at school, in communicating with school personal about the bullying, they avoided expressing concerns about belonging and focused on individualistic interventions for themselves and their child. This suggests that educators build awareness and dialogue about the power dynamics that play out between parents and teachers, and amongst children who are perceived as different.
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Thesis advisor: Le Mare, Lucy
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