Bullying has been around as long as people have. Numerous scientific studies over the decades have shown that humans tend to form groups, and then form negative opinions about the groups that aren’t theirs. So, how can we help our kids cope with a bully? Here’s a few tips.
Keep the Conversation Open
Kids may not always disclose if they are being bullied, there is a level of shame involved. So as parents, we may need to do a little digging. I know as well as any other parent that children aren’t incredibly forth coming with the details of their day. Try asking varied and open ended questions like:
-Who did you play with today?
-What was the best and worst part of your day?
-What did you do at recess?
-What made you happy today? What made you mad/sad/frustrated/excited?
Don’t Shame or Blame
If your child brings up a bullying incident to you, take a few breaths to think out your response. Many parents go straight to “Why didn’t you…” or “You should have…” This can make the child feel shame and be reluctant to bring this to an adult’s attention in the future. As a parent myself, I know this comes from a good place. None of us want our child bullied, we want to protect them, and so we immediately go towards what they can do. Take a moment, check in with your own feelings (possibly worry or anger at your child being vulnerable), and then think about what your child needs. Provide empathy first and then help your child think through what they can do.
-Work with your child on feeling good about being assertive
-Make sure your child knows it’s ok to ask an adult for help
-Role play the above scenarios to help your child get comfortable
Advocate for your Child
First address the issue with the child’s teacher in person, or over email. Try to be non-blaming and report the issue from your child’s perspective, acknowledging that this is one side of the issue. Others are much more likely to help if they feel it is a cooperative arrangement. If you don’t get help from the teacher, email the school’s principal. Emails are important as they provide documentations of your efforts to solve the issue. Again, email in the spirit of cooperation and problem solving.
Self defense classes can be a great asset to your child. The classes not only provide skills to defend themselves (hopefully this is never needed!), but they also inspire confidence and discipline.
The actions of other children are not in our control, and that can be really frustrating. However, using the skills above, we can address what we are able to control and give our kids a safe place to navigate some of life’s toughest situations.
Abby Withee is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Rolling Hills Estates and Redondo Beach. With a focus on mindful practices, Abby works with children, adolescents, adults, and families to address a variety of diagnoses and presenting issues. Abby is also a South Bay mommy of a 5 year old and a 2 year old who enjoy crafting, hockey, and science experiments.
Learn more here: www.witheefamilytherapy.com