If you think back to your childhood, there are different experiences that will likely jump to the forefront of your memory. While you will certainly remember the sacred moments you wish you could relive, you may also recall other negative experiences like falling off your bike, arguing with your siblings, or even being bullied. If you have kids of your own, it’s likely they’ll recall similar memories — one of them in particular something you pray they never have to experience. Unfortunately, kids aren’t always as nice, so bullying could be a reality yours have to live through.
So how do you deal with bullying if you suspect or have confirmation that it’s something your kids are going through? While bullying isn’t an easy challenge for any parent to get through, there are ways to get past it. Here are a few practical steps you can take if your child is being bullied.
Identify the Signs
The first thing you should do if you suspect your child is being bullied is to identify the signs. There are essentially three types of bullying:
Some obvious signs that your child is being bullied include changes in their behavior like constantly complaining of headaches or feeling under the weather. They may also start having trouble sleeping or display intense emotional reactions out of the blue. If some of these signs sound familiar, talk to your child in a way that makes them feel comfortable opening up. They may not be forthcoming initially, but be persistent until you find out what’s going on.
Explore Ways to Help Them Cope
Finding out your child is being bullied can be disheartening. However, the best thing you can do for them is be a source of strength and support. There is a myriad of ways you could do this, and a big one is by equipping them with healthy coping mechanisms. Some of these coping mechanisms might include:
When a child is being bullied, it’s hard to know what they’re going through internally, which is why communication is key. The more you talk to them and make them feel safe, the more likely they are to trust you enough to open up. Find out how the bullying is making them feel and avoid accusing them in any way by suggesting they did something to instigate it, themselves.
When communicating, you could even find other issues begin to surface, especially if they’re going through major changes. It could be that they’re not coping well with a recent divorce or a big move has had an impact on their emotional wellbeing. Talking through things will help them lift the load and create a safe space for them to vent.
Building Their Confidence
Bullying can tear down a child’s confidence, especially when it happens over a period of time. To make them more resilient, look for ways to build their self-confidence back up. Start by reminding them about all of their strengths and celebrating them as often as you can. Building their confidence could also look like spending quality time together and offering encouragement often.
Some kids are more vulnerable because of disorders they have such as anxiety or ADHD, so offering added support for such kids is important. You may need to stress that there is nothing wrong with their differences and help them focus on their strengths instead. Parenting a child with ADHD has its own challenges, so adding bullying to the mix can’t be easy to deal with.
In the process of building their confidence, teach them about the power of positive body language, too. They should always make eye contact and hold their head up high as a way of showing their bully they aren’t afraid or intimidated. By building your child’s confidence, they may start to become more assertive. This will make standing up for themselves easier which you’ll learn more about below.
Teaching Them How to Respond
While building your child’s confidence is great, they need to know how to respond to bullies in real-life scenarios. Unless you change their school or decide to homeschool, your child may still have to see their tormentor on a daily basis. Consider positive roleplay where you practice possible responses and ways they could respond to their bullies. For instance, they can make bold statements like “leave me alone” or “that isn’t a nice thing to say” instead of allowing the bully to make them cry or feel defeated.
At the same time, you want them to avoid rude comments that could exacerbate the situation. The goal should be for them to stand up for themselves without encouraging the bully or giving them the response they desire. It is also okay to tell your child to walk away, especially if it could become physical.
Creating a Nurturing Home Environment
The home environment should be a safe space for your child seeing as they’re going through so much at school. Consider seeking out positive activities they can engage in while at home. This could help redirect their attention and serve as a positive outlet for their emotions. Examples of activities they can do are art, reading, or learning a new instrument. Creating opportunities for them to harness their talents and interests could go a long way in helping them cope.
Get As Much Support as Possible
Tackling bullying often takes a team effort, so use all of the people and resources you can to help. Start by speaking with school administrators and teachers to see if there are any ways that they can offer support.
See if the school has any counselors or social workers who can provide your child with counseling and support, too. Knowing they have an adult they can trust to help them at school could give them confidence and make them feel safe. Once a social worker or counselor is involved, they may be able to help your family access interventions. Some examples of useful interventions are anger management, parenting classes, or counseling. These could all help offset the negative effects of ongoing bullying. The bottom line is that school should be a safe zone for kids that’s free from bullying. There should always be a person of authority they can turn to who will listen and take action.
Bullying isn’t something any child should ever have to go through. However, by being aware of the signs and knowing how to respond if it does happen, you can help make your child stronger and more resilient.