Bullying is a huge problem in today's society and, as it is National Bullying Week (15th - 19th November), we thought we would cover some of the ways that parents can help their children deal with bullies and give you some tips on how to talk about it with them so that they feel safe enough to come forward if something happens again:
Talk to your child/children about bullying
It is never too early to have the bullying chat with your children. You should start this conversation as soon as possible so that they know how you feel about it and what will happen if a bully ever picks on the.
Understanding signs of bullying and identifying bullies
Bullying can be physical, emotional or cyber but there are always some tell-tale signs which indicate whether someone might be being bullied so make sure you understand these:
- New clothes, expensive gadgets or other things their friends don't have could signify an increase in spending from money earned by doing jobs around the house or shoplifting.
- They could be coming home with a lot of injuries which they can't explain.
- They could have a lot of bad dreams or nightmares.
- Self-harm may be sign that they are being bullied and therefore having a tough time coping with it.
- Their grades in school start to drop, their mood changes dramatically or they become more reclusive at home over the weekends - this is often when bullying can take place.
What to do if you notice your child is being bullied
If you have already had the conversation about bullying and taught them how to deal with bullies, now's the time to put those skills into action!
Talk calmly but firmly to both parties involved in an effort not escalate things further - let the bully know that what they're doing isn't okay and tell your child that no matter what anyone says or does, there are always positive ways of dealing with situations without without resorting to threats or violence.
Make sure everyone knows exactly where each party stands so nobody crosses a line again - if necessary, go back over this until you're both satisfied that everyone knows the boundaries and consequences.
Teach your children how to deal with bullies
The most important thing you can do for your child is teach them effective ways of dealing with a bully.
If they don't know what to expect or how to best protect themselves, they can feel like sitting ducks:
- Encourage them not to fight back unless absolutely necessary because this could be seen as an invitation for further attacks. Instead, find calm assertive responses by walking away from the situation if possible/practical or standing up firmly but respectfully for themselves when faced down by a bigger/stronger opponent.
- If worse comes to worst, then make sure they know not to freeze or give in. Even if it feels like you're going down for the count, keep your eyes fixed on the bully so that he/she knows exactly what's happening - this will prevent them from thinking there are no witnesses around which could encourage further attacks.
- Make sure they know that there is always a positive way of dealing with bullying and that they should come to you if it happens again so that together, you can figure out the best course of action. If possible/practical, have an escape plan in place which includes where your child will go if he/she has no other choice but to run.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings when the bullying happens - it's totally fine if they need a hug or feel upset, angry or frustrated but let them know that these are all healthy emotions which mean they're strong enough to tackle this obstacle in life and come out on top.
Be a good role model for your children and show them that you're not afraid of bullies
It's easy to tell your children not to be afraid when you're standing behind them but it can feel much scarier in front of bullies who are trying intimidate everyone.
Be brave and confident, no matter how scared you might actually be feeling inside!
Don't show any weakness because this is what the bully will prey on if they see an opportunity - make sure instead that your body language shows strength and confidence so that nobody feels like they could take advantage without retribution.
Find out what is triggering the bully's behavior and address it head-on
Bullies often pick on others for a reason: maybe their parents have recently split up or someone has said something about their appearance which really hurt them. Whatever it may be, find out what their reasons are and talk to them about how they're feeling.
If you can find out the cause of their behavior, then this will give you a better understanding of who your child is dealing with and help you both come up with some strategies for protecting themselves in future - it might also show that there's no bad blood between everyone at all which could make things easier!
Encourage your child to have other interests outside of school so they don't feel like they are being bullied all the time.
Bullying usually has more impact when people think they've got nowhere else to turn or nobody cares enough about them: sadly, we live in a world where many kids only get attention from bullies because everybody just wants to avoid conflict.
Encourage your child to have other interests outside of school
Maybe they love sports, music or drawing? This will make them feel more confident and happy with themselves so their bullies won't be able to infiltrate that bubble of happiness and security - even better: encourage your children to try something new which could really take their mind off school for a while!
Helping your child understand their emotions can help them better cope with bullying
Bullying is nothing to be ashamed of but it can still leave scars which might take months and, sometimes, even years to heal. If your child has been the victim of bullying, they'll likely feel like everyone hates them and nobody loves them anymore - this isn't true at all!
Remember that people who are bullies don't always end up happy because their mindsets leave no room for anything else: if everybody around you only thinks about themselves, how could they ever think about someone other than themselves?
Bullies often end up feeling lonely inside despite having lots of friends on the outside so encourage your child not to let their emotions get too much control over their lives by pointing out these facts every now and again. Teach them how to deal with bullies in a way which doesn't hurt them and make sure you make yourself available, should they need to talk about it.
Help your child find someone to talk to, like a counsellor or other professional
If your child is having a particularly hard time and seems to be getting worse, then it's important that you encourage them to talk about their feelings with somebody who can help. Even if it means someone who is not YOU...
Many schools have counsellors on hand so speak to the school if your children are struggling - although they may not want you talking directly about what has happened, this kind of confidentiality could really help both parents and children cope better together!
Discuss cyberbullying with your kids
The internet is a great place to make friends and learn new things, but it's also the perfect breeding ground for bullies.
Discuss cyberbullying with your kids so that they know what to do if someone starts saying mean or unpleasant things about them online - maybe even encourage them to show you their social media profiles so that you can keep an eye on them and who they interact with.
Remember: if your children are getting bullied online, this doesn't mean it's their fault... but the best thing you could do is to help them deal with it in a way which feels comfortable for everyone involved - sometimes there may be nothing that can be done about cyberbullying at all!
Bullying is a serious issue. It affects children, teens and adults in their development of self-esteem, relationships with friends and family members as well as social skills.
There are many things you can do to help your child navigate the situation or prevent it from happening at all.
We hope that this blog post has given you some ideas on how to deal with bullies effectively for each age group.
If you have any questions about our suggestions, feel free to contact us anytime!