In today’s world bullying is very real and the negative effects of exclusion are devastating for tweens and teens. For a parent there is nothing more difficult than learning your child is the target of a bully. A wide range of emotions accompany this discovery including anger, fear, confusion and frustration. Regardless of the feelings that co-exist with bullying it is essential that parents take immediate action because bullying is not something that resolves itself or goes away. Bullying is extremely difficult for kids to sort out on their own and parents’ involvement is critical to a positive outcome.
Here are some steps to help parents take constructive action against bullying.
Build a strong relationship with your tween or teen. Begin by applauding your child for telling you about the bullying and reassure them of your support. Avoid an emotional reaction and ask them questions in a calm manner. Gathering details about the situation is important. Keep lines of communication open and encourage them to keep you “in the loop” about their feelings, frustrations and concerns.
Encourage your teen to engage in problem-focused coping not emotion-focused coping. Emotion-focused coping strategies center on the negative aspects and emotions that are causing the stressful situation. When this occurs, a child perceives the situation to be outside of his or her control leaving them with feelings of frustration and despair. Often kids engage in avoidance which alleviates the stress short-term but it’s not healthy long-term. Problem-focused coping targets the cause of the stress allowing kids to engage in strategies that help them view the situation as manageable and less threatening. They perceive the stress to be within their capacity to alter and control.
Let your child know that their input is important and necessary to resolution of the situation. Ask your child’s opinion before sharing information with teachers and administrators. Retaliation may be a concern for your child and discretion is important when talking to the school team about the situation. Document important details about the bullying before talking to school administrators. Emphasize the importance of your child’s safety at school and ask for a copy of the school’s bullying policy. Also, stress that you want to partner with the school to resolve the issues.
Brainstorm strategies and keep the lines of communication open. When a child recognizes that there are constructive strategies in place to help them deal with difficult peer situations they feel in control and empowered. Active listening is critical to resolving bullying; keep the lines of communication open and be consistent with the school team and professional counselors. Be deliberate in asking your child about their day and be quick to recognize negative feelings or emotions.
Empower tweens and teens to overcome the negative impact of bullying. Begin by helping a child recognize their positive attributes, talents, skills and strengths. Encourage them to identify a friend at school that will help them feel safe while eating lunch and walking the hallways. Bullies are more likely to target kids when they are alone. If finding a friend is difficult contact the school counselor for suggestions and support.
Consider outside counseling. A child can be affected by bullying in several different ways. Helping them to navigate the frustrations of bullying and regain their self-confidence may require outside intervention. Watching for depression and thoughts of suicide can be assessed by a professional counselor. Do not underestimate the negative effects of bullying.
Bullying is serious and can lead to low self-esteem, frustration, anger, hopelessness and suicide. Parental support and consistent follow up with the school are critical to resolving bullying. It is important for tweens and teens to recognize that they aren’t responsible for the actions of their peers. There may be times when resolution doesn’t occur and other alternatives need to be explored like moving the child to another school, online learning options or home schooling. Bullying can’t be tolerated, and kids don’t need to be a target. Help tweens and teens navigate bullying by understanding that their feelings, fears and concerns are real, to be proactive and to recognize they have options and the support of others.
About the author
Academic Language Therapist, Multi-book Author, National Speaker
Vikki empowers people! She is an Academic Language Therapist, multi-book author and a national speaker. Vikki grew up in Salt Lake City, met her husband at the University of Utah, and has owned several companies across the United States. In 2010, Vikki and her husband moved back to Utah from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and she founded Vikki Carrel & Company, a speaking and training organization. Read more about the Author