Bullying is a serious issue that affects many children, and as a parent, it’s important to know how to help your child manage bullying. While common, bullying is NOT a normal part of development. Bullying can cause emotional distress, affect academic performance, and even lead to physical harm. These negative effects are immediate and can last your child’s lifetime, putting them at risk for other social, emotional, and physical problems throughout their life.
Bullying is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.
While the responsibility is on adults to end bullying, here are some tips to help children and teens manage bullying. However, it is essential to remember it is not up to the child to end bullying.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent to help your child manage bullying is to listen to them. If your child tells you that they are being bullied, it’s crucial to take their concerns seriously and provide them with a safe space to express themselves. Let them know that you are there to support and help them.
Listening to your child without judgment or interruption is essential. This means giving your child your full attention and being present in the moment. Encourage them to open up by asking open-ended questions and actively listening to their responses. This shows your child that you value their feelings and opinions and that they can trust you to support them.
It’s also important to validate your child’s experiences. Let them know that what they are feeling is normal and that they are not alone. Sometimes, children who are being bullied may feel embarrassed or ashamed, so it’s crucial to reassure them that they are not at fault and that they have done nothing wrong.
Finally, make sure to take appropriate action based on what your child tells you. This may involve talking to their teacher or school counsellor, helping them develop assertiveness skills, or seeking professional help if needed. By listening to your child and taking action to address their concerns, you can help them feel heard, supported, and empowered to overcome bullying.
Teach Assertiveness & Problem-Solving Skills
When a child is bullied, they may feel powerless, scared, and unsure of how to respond. As a parent, it’s crucial to help your child develop the skills they need to stand up for themselves and assert their boundaries.
One way to empower your child to manage bullying is to teach them assertiveness skills. This includes using assertive body language, tone of voice, and language to communicate their boundaries clearly and effectively. Encourage your child to practice saying no and expressing their feelings and needs in different situations.
It is also important to teach them problem-solving skills to manage bullying. Help them identify different strategies they can use to deal with bullying, such as walking away, ignoring the bully, or seeking help from a trusted adult. Role-play different scenarios with your child so they can practice responding to bullying situations.
Helping your child know when to stand up for themselves and when to walk away is important. It can be helpful to teach your child an automatic phrase they can say in any situation (e.g., “Thank you!” or “Whatever”) and then walk over to an adult to minimize bullies from following them.
Bullies often target children who appear vulnerable or lacking in confidence. Therefore, building your child’s confidence is an important aspect of helping them manage bullying. When a child has high self-esteem and confidence, they are better equipped to handle difficult situations and are less likely to be impacted by the negative effects of bullying.
Here are some ways you can build your child’s confidence:
- Encourage your child to try new things: Encourage your child to try new activities and hobbies, whether it’s a new sport, music lessons, or art classes. This can help them discover their talents and passions and build their confidence in their abilities.
- Focus on their strengths: Help your child identify their strengths and talents, and encourage them to build on them. This can help them feel good about themselves and build confidence in their abilities.
- Praise their efforts: When your child puts effort into something, even if they don’t achieve the desired outcome, praise their efforts. This can help them feel good about themselves and build confidence in their ability to try and persevere.
- Prase brave behaviours: When we praise brave behaviours, we reinforce positive behaviours and build confidence and can reinforce their decision to stand up for themselves. Focusing on brave behaviours can also help to shift the focus from the negative aspects of bullying to the positive aspects of resilience, courage, and strength. When a child receives praise for their brave behaviour, it can help to counteract the negative effects of bullying and build their self-esteem and self-worth.
- Provide opportunities for success: Give your child opportunities to succeed, whether it’s by setting achievable goals or providing them with positive feedback for a job well done. This can help them build confidence in their abilities and feel good about themselves.
- Be a positive role model: Children learn by example, so make sure you model self-confidence and positive self-talk. Avoid putting yourself down or criticizing yourself in front of your child, as this can impact their own self-esteem.
Teach Empathy & Self-Compassion
Teaching your child about empathy is an important step in managing bullying. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and it can help your child develop a greater sense of compassion, kindness, and understanding toward others.
Here are some ways you can teach your child about empathy:
- Model empathy: Children learn by example, so make sure to model empathy in your own behaviour. Talk to your child about how you feel when you see someone in pain or struggling and how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
- Encourage perspective-taking: Help your child understand that everyone has their own unique experiences and challenges. Encourage them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and imagine how they might be feeling in a given situation.
- Practice active listening: Encourage your child to listen actively to others and pay attention to their nonverbal cues. This can help them understand how others are feeling and respond in a supportive and compassionate way.
- Teach kindness and compassion: Encourage your child to be kind and compassionate towards others, even when they disagree or have different opinions. This can help them develop positive relationships and build a supportive community around them.
- Teach problem-solving skills: Help your child develop problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts with others. Encourage them to come up with solutions that are fair and respectful of everyone’s feelings and needs.
It is also equally important to help your child develop self-compassion. Encourage them to engage in activities that make them feel good, such as spending time with friends, playing sports, or pursuing hobbies. Teach them to be kind and compassionate towards themselves, and to seek help and support when they need it.
Encourage Positive Relationships
By encouraging positive relationships with peers, family members, and other adults, you can help your child develop a sense of belonging, connection, and support, which can help them to manage bullying with greater resilience and strength. Positive relationships can also serve as a protective factor against bullying, helping your child to build positive social skills and emotional intelligence that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Here are some ways to encourage positive relationships:
- Teach and model positive communication: Encourage your child to communicate openly and honestly with others, and to listen actively to what others have to say. Model positive communication yourself by being attentive and respectful in your own conversations with others.
- Encourage healthy boundaries: Teach your child about healthy boundaries and how to respect the boundaries of others. This can help to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings that can lead to bullying behaviors.
- Encourage social activities: Encourage your child to participate in social activities that align with their interests and values, such as sports teams, clubs, or hobbies. This can help them to meet new people and build positive relationships with peers who share their interests.
- Foster a sense of community: Encourage your child to get involved in community service projects or volunteer opportunities. This can help them to feel a sense of connection and belonging to their community, which can be a powerful protective factor against bullying.
- Teach empathy and kindness: Encourage your child to be kind and compassionate towards others, even in difficult situations. This can help to foster positive relationships and build a supportive community around them.
Work with your Child’s School to End Bullying
It is essential to talk to your child’s school about the bullying situation. Work together to develop a plan to address the bullying behaviour directly and ensure that your child feels safe and supported at school. Together, you can help your child develop the skills and resilience they need to navigate bullying with strength and confidence.
Here are some ways to work with your child’s school:
- Report the bullying: Make sure to report the bullying behavior to the school as soon as possible. This will allow the school to take appropriate action and provide support to your child. Be sure to document any incidents of bullying and share this information with the school.
- Meet with the school: Schedule a meeting with the school to discuss the bullying behaviour and develop a specific plan for addressing it. This may include meeting with your child’s teacher, principal, or guidance counsellor.
- Collaborate on a plan: Work with the school to develop a plan for addressing the bullying behaviour.
- Stay in communication: Keep in regular communication with the school to monitor the progress of the plan and to ensure that your child feels safe and supported. Be sure to follow up on any action items and provide feedback to the school on the effectiveness of the plan.
- Advocate for your child: Advocate for your child’s needs and rights, and make sure that they are receiving the support and resources they need to manage the bullying behaviour. This may include requesting accommodations or adjustments in their academic or social environment to help them feel safe and supported.
Monitor Your Child’s Online Activity
With the rise of social media and online communication, children are increasingly vulnerable to cyberbullying, which can be just as harmful and traumatic as in-person bullying. It is important to monitor your child’s online activity. Teach them about safe and responsible online behaviour and encourage them to report any bullying they see.
Here are some ways to monitor your child’s online activity:
- Set clear boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for your child’s use of technology and social media, and communicate these boundaries to them clearly. This may include limiting their screen time, restricting access to certain websites or apps, or establishing rules around online communication with others.
- Use parental controls: Use parental control tools to monitor your child’s online activity, such as filters that block inappropriate content or alerts that notify you of suspicious or concerning behaviour.
- Have open and honest conversations: Talk to your child openly and honestly about the risks and dangers of online communication and social media, and encourage them to come to you with any concerns or issues they may be facing online.
- Check in regularly: Regularly check in with your child about their online activity, and ask them to show you what they are doing online. This can help you to identify any concerning behaviour or red flags that may indicate bullying or other forms of harm.
- Stay informed: Stay up to date on the latest trends and technologies in social media and online communication, and educate yourself about the risks and dangers your child may face online.
Seek Professional Help
If your child is experiencing severe emotional distress or if the bullying is causing physical harm, seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide support and guidance for both you and your child. A trained therapist can help your child develop healthy ways of managing their emotions, build resilience, and improve their overall well-being. With the right support and guidance, your child can overcome the effects of bullying and thrive.
Anti-Bullying & Youth Hotlines in the US and Canada