How to Talk to Your Child About Bullying

It is back to school and the excitement of a brand new year, new experiences and for some, new friends. There’s a wonderful ring to the word “growth”, and with kids, it happens all too soon. There are victories to celebrate and problems to tackle and overcome.

Then comes the day when your child seems a little upset, but hesitant to talk about it. Quite likely, she has met a bully and is trying to process it in her mind.

Sadly, kids may not always recognize bullying. Quite often, bullying is seen as physical hurt. It may also seem as though the other child is just joking. Whatever it is, talk to your child about bullying, help her understand what it is, how to recognize it and how to deal with it. There is a big difference between someone being friendly and someone being a bully.

Help Kids Understand Bullying

If the behavior hurts or harms your child in any way, physically or emotionally, it is bullying.  It is a good idea for parents to discuss it among themselves and think about how they are going to respond to their child. They must also decide how much information they want to give their child about bullying, depending on how old she is.

When kids know about bullying, they can recognize it, and talk about it if it happens to them, or to others.  They must know how to stand up for themselves safely, and how to get help.

To boost their confidence, spend time with them every day talking to them.

However, some children find it hard to talk about it and may not respond to direct questioning. So ask questions about their day, and watch their responses. Give them time to talk about how they’re feeling.

Here are some questions that can help; choose the ones that are appropriate for the situation:

  • What was the one thing you enjoyed about your day today?
  • Were there any bad moments?
  • How was lunchtime at school? Who did you sit with? What did you talk about?
  • How was the bus ride to/from school?
  • Were you looking forward to getting on the bus?
  • What did you enjoy doing today?
  • What do you like the most about yourself?
  • What does bullying mean to you?
  • What are bullies like?
  • Why do you think people bully?
  • Who are the adults you trust the most when it comes to bullying?
  • Who are your friends? What do you like about them?
  • Are you afraid of someone? There is often a leader of the pack and children go along with them, afraid that they may be the next target if they don’t.
  • Have you felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of a bully? Did you try ways to change this?
  • How do you think parents can help to stop bullying?
  • Did you or your friends exclude other kids on purpose? Does that look like bullying to you? Why? Why not?
  • When you see someone being bullied, what do you normally do?
  • How do you feel when you see kids being bullied at school?
  • Have you tried helping someone being bullied? What happened?
  • If it happens again, what would you do?

Keep in mind that there may be family situations that can upset a child, such as a separation, loss of a loved one, a new baby, etc.

If she is a victim of bullying, let her know that:

  • She’s not alone when she has to face problems
  • Kids often feel they’ve been singled out for bullying and that nobody cares. Let her know people do care.
  • It is not her sole responsibility to stop the bullying
  • Bullying happens everywhere, but that does not make it okay.
  • No one deserves to be bullied

As a parent, do the following:

  • Encourage your child to speak to an adult she trusts if she is a victim of bullying or sees someone who is being bullied. This adult should be able to comfort her, support her and give her advice if the problem cannot be solved directly.
  • Encourage your child to report bullying if he sees it happening.
  • Give her tips on how to stand up to bullies. She could use humor and say stop, confidently. If that doesn’t work, she can try just walking away.
  • Teach him to stay safe, by hanging out with other kids in a group or being close to an adult.
  • Suggest helping kids who are bullied by getting help and being kind
  • Read her school/class newsletters and discuss them at home
  • Check the school website
  • Attend school events
  • Acknowledge the school bus driver and staff
  • Keep in touch with the school teachers and counselors via email
  • Share phone numbers with other parents.

Parents, school staff, and other caring adults can together help prevent bullying by:

  • Helping kids understand bullying. Discuss what bullying is, and teach them how to stand up to it. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is not acceptable and show them how to get help.
  • Making sure they can get in touch with you any time. Check in with them often, listen to them, get to know their friends, inquire about school and understand what’s bothering them.
  • Encouraging kids to do what they love. This may be hobbies and activities that make them feel more confident and make friends, minimizing the chances of being bullied.
  • Showing them by example, how to treat others with kindness and respect. Kids do learn from watching adult behavior even when it looks like they’re not. And when they see kindness and respect, they understand that there is no place for bullying.
  • Listen, believe, be supportive and patient. Educate them and explore options for intervention to deal with bullying.

A word of caution, though!

As a caring parent, it is natural to want to rush in and fix things. This can involve calling the parents of the bully, or meeting the bully. Do pause and remember that when your child tells you about bullying, he wants you to guide him with a solution that makes him feel more confident and capable of tackling the situation. So whatever you do, include her in deciding on the course of action. It is usually best to interact and work through the school and take action. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it!

Has your child ever been a victim of bullying? How did you manage the situation? Do share in the comments!

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