How to Help a Child Who is Being Bullied
Though bullying is certainly not a new problem that children face, in recent years it has escalated to a level that children have never before experienced. Parents whose children are being bullied often do not know how to help; however, there are many things that can be done to support, comfort, and assist children who are being bullied through this troubling time.
Stay connected with the child’s friends by allowing and encouraging them to have friends over. When parents encourage their child’s friends to spend time at the house where parents can witness the type of interactions that occur, parents are able to better appreciate the world their child lives in. This will also help encourage the child to open up and share more experiences and feelings with their parents.
Give your children a break from the pressures of their social media life. One of the reasons why bullying today is so alarming is because a good majority of it does not happen in person, but instead occurs virtually through social media sites. Because of this, a good way to help protect your child from the sorrow of cyber bullying is to create a “turn off time” in the house. This is the time that all phones, computers, tablets, and desktops get turned off for the night. With this rule in place, your child at least has a time when they are not allowed to see or hear any hurtful comments that may be directed at them. It may not make the comments go away, but being forced to turn everything off for a while will make a difference and give the child some respite from the attacks of cyber bullying.
Fully listen to the child’s side of the story. Sometimes parents hear part of the story and assume they know the rest. It is very important to a child’s emotional stability to be fully heard by at least one person. When a child can trust that their parents will listen to them fully no matter what, it gives them the strength to be honest about the issues they are facing.
When a child shares an incident of bullying, respond with loving concern rather than trying to immediately fix the problem. Often, when parents first hear about a bullying incident, their initial reaction is to quickly find a solution. This can frustrate a child who simply wanted someone to know what they are going through. Avoid instantly coming back to them with simple “solutions” or even cliches that will do nothing to help the situation at hand.
Ask the child how they want to be helped before jumping in to fix the problem. Many times children really just want a shoulder to cry on and are not looking for parents to help them fix anything. Parents should have a discussion with their child before they come up with any solutions to the problem.
Validate the child’s emotions. No matter what, the child is looking for someone to tell them it is OK to be worried, angry, and even scared about being bullied. Parents can validate these emotions by sharing stories from their own childhood and making sure the child knows that they have done nothing wrong. Above all else, a child should walk away from their parents knowing that what they said is confidential and safe with them.
Rather than making blanket statements, ask the child questions to help them look at the issue from a different perspective. Questions are the best way to help a child discover their own feelings about the situation at hand. Choose questions that will help them think not just about how they feel about what happened, but also why they might feel that way. “Tell me more about that.” “Why do you think that hurt you so much?” “How did everyone around you respond?” “What can you do to change the situation?” “What do you want to do about it?” These are a few questions that can help lead the child to discover how they really feel and what they want to do about the situation.
Avoid being too directly involved in any issues your child has with their peers. Most parents want to not only help the child fix the problem, but also to fix the problem themselves. While there is most definitely a time to talk to teachers and principals, and to advocate for the child in other ways, the best and most effective thing a parent can do to help a child who is being bullied is to lead the child to their own conclusions about how to address the situation and then support and encourage them when they follow through on those actions. Becoming directly involved can not only be embarrassing for a child, it can also make the situation much worse. In addition, it does not teach the child how to respond to these types of situations in life.
No parent wants their child to be bullied, but finding the right balance of love, observation, and action can help a child not only get through the difficult events that seem pretty inevitable in childhood these days, but actually become a stronger and more resilient adult because of them.
This is a guest post by GoNannies.com, a website that helps you search and find nannies, sitters, senior care, and other caregivers.
Photo by Emily Kidd2012/Flickr