By Dvora Litt, Family Therapist
Children who are Olim Chadashim or children of Olim are particularly vulnerable to bullying in school. They may want to fit in but speak a foreign language, have an accent, dress differently and display attitudes and behaviors associated with a different culture. Peers are usually sensitive to and not necessarily forgiving of these differences.
The large class size in Israel lends itself to the formation of cliques and these are not necessarily welcoming of Olim. In fact an Oleh may be picked on, excluded, made fun of or physically hurt by one or more of the members of these groups.
Prevention: Anticipate problems at the start of the school year. Try to pre-empt by making contact with the teacher, principal and guidance counselor. Ask them to encourage healthy socialization and to be on the look-out for problems. Ask what the school policy is towards bullying. Collaborating with the school may be your best tool in protecting your child. If you do not speak Hebrew, consider taking along a friend, relative, social worker or educational consultant who does! You want to strengthen your stance and be clear about your expectations and concerns. Do not make assumptions.
Intervention: If your child reports an incident of bullying, model assertive rather than arrogant or aggressive behavior. Contact the school and arrange a meeting. Advocate for your child’s right to learn in a safe, non-threatening environment. Do not let the language or cultural barrier scare you. By taking along a Hebrew speaker you increase the chances that you will be heard. Ask for an investigation into the incident and hold the school accountable. Together provide your child with ideas for appropriate assertiveness and coping strategies. Consider a buddy system whereby your child is matched with a Hebrew speaker. Follow up on a consistent basis. If need be involve the Education Ministry.[/vc_column_text][vc_facebook][/vc_column][/vc_row]