How to Talk to Your Kids if You Suspect They’re Being Bullied
When your child is being bullied it can be heartbreaking for a parent. While you may be tempted to rush in and try to save your child, it’s important to first know how to talk with your kids about bullying, understand their feelings and learn more about the situation.
Look for the Warning Signs of Bullying
The shame and fear that comes along with being bullied means that your child may not be forthcoming about the situation. This makes talking with kids about bullying a little tricky. Boys especially, for fear of being a ‘tattletale’ or ‘wimp’, may put on a good show when confronted with questions. When you think your child is being bullied, look for the Warning Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied.
Ask Questions about Bullying in Your Child’s School
Your child may open up to you easier if you start your questions off without addressing them specifically. For example, you can ask:
- Are there any bullies in your school?
- What do the bullies do and say?
- Are there any kids in your class the bullies pick on?
- (And finally) Do they ever bully you?
The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to Your Bullied Child
Your child needs to know that you’re they’re for them. When talking to your kids about bullying, they need to know that you’re not going to trivialize this or minimize their pain. That you’re going to treat it seriously and not brush it off as just a phase.
Here’s what your child needs to hear from you:
You’re not alone in this. I’m here for you.
When your child is being bullied it’s important to first understand how your child views the situation and what they’re feeling. If you start off immediately by asking lots of very specific questions that frame the situation, you won’t know what’s most important to your child.
Instead, start by asking a few very general questions and let your child take the lead and tell the story. For example, you can ask them to simply ‘Tell you about it’. Be sure not to interrupt them!
Once your child has finished, you can then ask more specific questions to learn the details of the situation (who, what, when and where.)
This isn’t your fault.
No one deserves to be bullied, threatened, shamed and humiliated. Even if your child has certain behaviors that annoy the bully, this is still the bully’s fault.
You’re not powerless. There are things you can do.
Ask your child if there’s anything you can do to help. Tell them that they’re not alone, they’re not helpless and that together you’ll come up with a plan to stop the bullying.
Together with your child, come up with a list of plans to help your child be assertive, stand up for themselves and help them develop their unique talents and skills. You can also help your child eliminate any plans or courses of action that would worsen the problem or put them in danger.
Report the bullying to the school.
Once you have the facts from your child, including how it’s affecting them, talk to your school and make sure they follow through on a plan to protect your child from the bully and discipline the bully. Be sure to follow-up regularly with your child to make sure they’re no longer being bullied.
Remember, if your school isn’t taking effective action to address the situation you can take it to the school district level. Not every school knows how to effectively deal with bullying and not every schools treats it as seriously as they should.
The ‘Don’ts’ of Talking to Your Child about Bullying
Here are five things you absolutely DO NOT want to do when talking to your child about how they’re being bullied.
- Don’t minimize or try to rationalize the bully’s behavior. If you do, you’re telling your child they’re alone in this and, even worse, that they may deserve this treatment.
- Don’t rush in and take over the situation unless you believe they’re in serious danger: Your child needs to believe they can handle problems themselves. Your help and guidance is absolutely still required; however you need to work together with your child so that they too can take credit for resolving the
- Don’t tell your child to avoid the bully. Your child is the victim. The onus should not be on the victim to avoid the aggressor. This is also not a feasible course of action in most situations anyways. Is the school really so big that the child can avoid them all the time?
- Don’t tell your child to fight back. Bullies usually choose targets they believe are physically weaker which means a fight could end badly for your child. As well, you don’t want to teach your child that fighting is a reasonable way to solve problems. Even worse, the person throwing the first punch could be labeled as the aggressor by the school.
- Don’t confront the bully or their parents alone. Bullies usually learn to bully from someone. That someone might be their parents. Have school staff or a school counselor be there for any meetings with the bully’s