Bullying: How to Help Your Child Cope

Bullying: How to Help Your Child Cope

Bullying is far more common than any of us want to admit, with many children facing it on a daily basis. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 4 students report being bullied at school.

With the advent of social media, bullying is no longer just something kids experience at school or on the playground—it’s become a 24/7 concern. Bullying can be physical, social or psychological and can involve hitting, shoving, verbal threats, excluding others, spreading rumors or shaming.

While different for each child, victims of bullying can develop low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, fear of social situations, physical complaints, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide.

Unless there’s physical evidence, bullying is often difficult to identify. That’s why it’s important for parents to address the subject with their child at home. Kids can internalize and may feel embarrassed or ashamed about bullying. Even if you do not suspect your child is being bullied, they have undoubtedly witnessed the behavior or may even be a bully. Therefore, having an open and ongoing dialogue about the topic is important.

Bullying: How Parents Can Help

While your first reaction may be to protect your child and spring into action to stop bullying behavior, it’s critical to remain calm and keep your own emotions in check. Your son or daughter may be hesitant to discuss bullying for fear of how you may react. Let’s look at some ways you can help your child cope:  

  • Let them know you’re there as their advocate and ally. Praise them for letting you know about the bullying and reinforce that they are not to blame. Discuss how the incident has made them feel.
  • Understand the big picture and learning the facts about the behavior. Find out who is participating, how often it’s happening and where the behavior takes place.
  • Ask your child about a trusted adult at their school. Contact this individual, along with the school principal, teacher or counselor, to address the issue. Do not directly confront the child or parent of the bully.
  • Create a safety plan with your child that includes constructive strategies like a buddy system.
  • Protect your child from cyberbullying by monitoring online activity.
  • Nurture safe relationships and spaces. Encourage your child to spend time with positive friends and take part in activities they enjoy.

Building a Healthy Dialogue

You can also help your child build a vocabulary for describing their school experience and emotions. Here are some questions to start the conversation:

  • Is there part of today you wished you could skip over?
  • Who is someone in your class you admire? What are the qualities you respect about them?
  • If you were a teacher, what are some of the rules you’d make for your classroom?
  • Is there someone in your class you feel might need a friend? How could you include them?
  • If I spoke to your teacher or other kids in your class, how would they describe you?

If you feel your child needs additional support, consider scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional who can create a secure space for discussing bullying. Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services delivers comprehensive, compassionate and confidential mental health care for people of all ages.