How to talk to your child about bullying

How to talk to your child about bullyingBeing bullied is an unnecessary and anxiety-provoking experience. Bullying causes harm not only to the person being bullied, but also has the potential to harm the bully, families and any witnesses as well. Although a prominent matter, research tells us that children actually have a very limited repertoire of strategies to deal with bullies. This makes your involvement as parents even more significant. Here are some helpful tips on how to talk to your child about bullying.

1. Start the conversation

Initiate a conversation, don’t wait for your child to come to you and open up about their experiences. Many anti-bullying programmes encourage students to tell someone if they are bullied, whether their parents or their peers. Although telling someone is the recommended strategy, many children still do not seek help. This could be due to a fear of retaliation from bullies or shame over how they’ll look in front of their classmates.

Because of this, it’s important for you to start the conversation with your child, as they are often unwilling to initiate the topic. These conversations are critical to ensuring that your child feels safe at school. You can have a positive influence on your child’s social, emotional and academic development by talking with them and being engaged in their experiences.

2. Ask questions

Talking about what bullying is before it happens helps children to recognise it and know what to do.

Asking the following questions can be helpful:

  • What do you think bullying is?
  • Have you seen bullying happening? What did you do? How did you feel?
  • Who are the adults you would talk to when it comes to things like bullying?
  • Has someone tried to bully you? What ways have you tried to change it?
  • Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?

3. Stop and listen

When your child begins to talk about bullying, stop and listen. Kids are already reluctant to open up to an adult about bullying because they are embarrassed, ashamed or worried about their parents’ response. When your child begins to share their experiences, listen without judgement. When parents are emotional or overreact, this can discourage a child from speaking up.

4. Avoid using harmful words

Avoid describing a child as a ‘bully’ or a ‘victim’. These words are not necessarily helpful for finding positive and lasting solutions. In a conversation about bullying, remember that children are still maturing and learning how to be effective members of the community. Their identities and self-worth are still being developed. If the labels of ‘bully’ or ‘victims’ stick, it can make it difficult for them to change their behaviour because they may adopt these labels as their social identity.

5. Find solutions

It is important to discuss the term ‘bullying’ as it describes a wide range of situations. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with bullying, what’s advisable in one situation may not be appropriate in another. Many factors, such as a child’s age, the severity of the situation and the specific type of bullying will determine the best solution.

It will help to practice appropriate responses through dialogue and role play. When a child is insulted or humiliated, he or she is likely to be shocked and so you want to help make sure that they don’t react in a way that escalates the situation.

If your child is experiencing bullying issues, it is important to speak to the School. Our Advisory Teachers and Deputy Principal are readily available to discuss issues concerning student wellbeing and pastoral care. The School Counsellor is also available by appointment.

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