Bullying is horrible at any stage in life. It’s particularly rampant in the child and teenage years. If not resolved, it can have a lasting effect on young people as they progress into adulthood; it can damage a person’s confidence and even how they perform in academic, professional and personal lives in the future. Nobody wants to be bullied, and parents of bullied children only want to protect them and make things better. If you find out (or suspect) that your child is being bullied, there are some steps you can take to help them cope with the situation.
Recognise signs that your child is being bullied
As with any problem, the first step to tackling it is recognising it. Teens may feel uncomfortable telling you about it directly, but there may well be signs that indicate your child is being bullied. You may have noticed a change in your child’s mood or their interest in school or friends. They may have begun doing poorly in school or started missing meals or certain activities they used to enjoy.
Let your teen know it’s ok to talk about being bullied
Assure your child that they did the right thing by talking to you about bullying. Kids and teens may feel embarrassed about the situation; make sure they know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Advise them that telling people about the issue shows strength, not weakness. Unfortunately, it may be a case that the bully has threatened them with further harm if they tell anyone. Explain to them that this shows that the bully is aware that their behaviour is wrong and shows cowardice on their part, not the victim.
Children don’t have to cope with bullying alone
It’s easier for bullies to pick on kids when they’re on their own. While it may not always be possible, children and teens may find it easier to cope with being around a bully if they’re with friends. For instance, if the bully waits for them after a particular class, the child could make a plan in advance that they walk out of that class with a friend. If they’re being bullied on the way home from school, then make sure they don’t walk home alone.
Talk to the bullies parents and other relevant authority figures if need be
Ultimately, other adults will need to be engaged in resolving the bullying situation. While your children and teens often shy away from this, you’ll need to inform their teacher, year head, principal, or similar figures if it’s happening in school. Likewise, if it’s happening outside of school, say, in a local sports club, you’ll need to discuss it with the coaches there. You likely will also need to engage with the bully’s parents. Be calm, try not to get too aggravated with them, but remain firm all the same. If you can show evidence of the bullying (we’ll get to that next) all the better.
Document the bullying
Encourage your child to report and keep a record of what’s happening. Perhaps they could keep a journal? Maybe there are witnesses? This is particularly important when it comes to online bullying. Make sure you and your child keep screenshots of any nasty messages or social media posts. It may prove helpful when discussing it with the bully’s parents, school staff or other authority figures. This will also make it harder for the bully (or their parents) to deny the behaviour.
Get your teen to practice coping techniques for dealing with bullies
One way to help restore your kid’s confidence in coping with bullying is to provide them with techniques they can use if it happens again. Now, this doesn’t have to mean encouraging them to fight the bully. Instead, talk to them about ways to manage their reaction the next time it happens. Bullies thrive on reaction and attention — so what happens if you take this away from them? That’s not to say your teen should pretend the bullying isn’t happening, but sometimes, a fire simply needs to be starved of oxygen for it to stop burning. If the bully is verbally abusing them, ask your child to consider what would happen if they simply carry on nonchalantly without reacting to them? They could even act dismissive or bored towards the behaviour. You could practice role-play situations with your child on what to do the next time such a situation occurs.
Sometimes, the effects of childhood bullying are felt after the event itself
Hopefully, your child will recover and move on happily from the situation once resolved. Unfortunately, in some cases, the trauma of the bullying lingers and it may be the case that your child needs counselling to heal from the situation. Recovery is possible and you and your child can discuss a range of techniques with a qualified therapist.
Remember, as frustrating and upsetting it is to find out that your child is being bullied, there is always hope. The important thing is to respond calmly but firmly and reassure your child that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that they are loved and that you are there for them.
If your child or teen is being bullied, you may be considering the idea of therapy but not sure how to proceed from here. You can reach out for guidance by contacting me directly below.