When your child is being bullied, it can be difficult to know the best way to help him or her respond. However, through this experience, you can help your child build confidence and self-esteem by giving him or her the tools to successfully address the situation.
Children being bullied should never be made to feel that they are at fault. Instead, they should be told that they have the ability to take control. “The first step in helping your child is to provide emotional support so that he or she feels heard and supported,” says Elizabeth Victor, Ph.D., clinical psychologist with the Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health (COACH) program at Children’s Health℠. “Next, you want to make a game plan with your child so that he or she can know that you are taking active steps to appropriately stop the bullying.”
Here are tips for what you can do if you suspect, or know, that your child is being bullied:
Talk with your child
- Have regular conversations with your child, asking questions about their daily activities, friends and homework in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. This paints a picture of what their daily life is like and may alert you if something should change.
- If your child is willing to discuss a bullying situation, make sure to document who, what and where.
- If your child does not want to talk about a bullying experience, let him or her know why you are concerned and suspect there is a problem. Continue asking questions. Remember to remain non-judgmental and avoid being over-protective. Sometimes children fear that their parents will immediately go to the school/location or escalate the situation when all they want is to be heard and reassured.
- Reassure your child that bullying is not their fault, that they are not the label they have been given by the person(s) who are responsible for the bullying, and that they can do something about it.
Determine how your child prefers to handle the situation
- Work together! Instead of immediately notifying the person in charge at the school/location where your child is being bullied, ask how your child would like to address the situation and talk about the possibilities. For example, you can encourage your child to:
- Stand tall and make eye contact with the person who is being unkind.
- Respond to verbal or written bullying by saying “that’s rude,” “no” or “that’s not true.”
- Walk away or walk/sit with a group of people.
- Set social media accounts to “private” and block the person who is bullying.
- Notify an adult in charge.
- Sometimes, a child may prefer to do nothing. It is up to you to decide when it is best to step in, but never do so without informing your child. Always involve him or her in each step you decide to take.
Being on the receiving end of bullying is never easy, but by working together, parents can support a child in building strong self-esteem and reducing bullying.
Watch our bullying video series to learn more about signs of bullying, how to help your child open up about bullying and how to give your child the confidence to handle the situation.
You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.