How Should You Approach Your Child Being Bullied?

School life is not just about academic learning. Their schooling years are also a time where they learn socialisation with their peers: a long and complex process which continues well into our adult lives. And with such a large proportion of children’s growing time including daily interaction with their peers, at one time or another almost every parent is sure to worry about their child and bullying.

What Is Bullying?

According to Australian National Center Against Bullying,

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

The power imbalance can come from many areas, but may most often include imbalances arising from differences in physical strength, from access to embarrassing information, or from the influence of group dynamics. Bullying can include verbal abuse (such as name-calling, threats, sexual harassment or insults), physical bullying, cyber bullying, or may be social bullying: hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. It can often involve a combination of several kinds of abuse. In the U.S about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying and 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools*. Kids who are bullied can have serious, lasting problems with self-esteem, relationships, communication and learning.

What Should I Do If My Child Is Being Bullied?

Choose a comfortable setting and a suitable time to discuss the issue with your child. Home is often a safe zone, and for younger children the issue may be approached through play, because child is more relaxed. An example of potential kinds of play could include using toys or figurines to recreate a day at school, and seeing where the activity takes you.

Feel free to let your conversation be guided by how the child responds. If there is a sad, isolated doll for example, you might take the opportunity to ask your child if they also feel sad or isolated. Or if a doll hits someone, ask your child if they have seen that kind of behaviour at school.

When your child talks about it, give them all your affection and support to help make them feel secure. It can be helpful to explain that what a bully or bullies do to them is not right, that they are not to blame (we must remove any hint of guilt) and that you are going to look for an immediate solution.

If your child is intimidated and does not want you to act, you may offer reassurance that acting to stop the bullying is the most important thing, and that you will approach the subject sensitively in their social zone. It is then a good idea to discuss the issue discreetly with the relevant teacher or organisation, in order to activate the protocol as soon as possible.

Keys To Helping A Child Who Is Being Bullied

  • Give credibility to any disclosure the child makes.
  • Show your support and assure them that you are doing the right thing to end this situation.
  • Once the discussion has taken place, parents should reinforce their child’s self-esteem, paying more attention to it, evaluating their efforts in any field and highlighting their personal qualities and strengths. If necessary, therapy sessions may be useful.
  • Parents should also encourage them to strengthen their relationships with other children, in order to prevent the bullying causing social phobia.

Keys To Helping A Child Speak Up Against Bullying

  • Empathy is key. Teach your child how to put themselves in the shoes of a person who is being harassed. Brainstorm together some ways that your child could step in and help if they saw someone being bullied.
  • Encourage your child to show solidarity with children who are bullied. Show how supporting bullied friends can remove the power from bullies.
  • Read stories with your child about empathy and bullying, and together, discuss the issues that come up in those stories.

Free Books About Bullying

Storyberries has a number of free books about bullying which you can read for free online by clicking on the links below:

The Rainbow Cloud

Fairy Tales The Rainbow Cloud Parenting Portal Books About Bullying In The Rainbow Cloud, a twin stands up for her sister who is bullied by a little boy who says she is cursed. The twins are stronger together, and feel proud knowing that they can protect one another. The Rainbow Child is a bright picture book for children aged 4-6 or older.

The Ugly Duckling

Fairy Tales The Ugly Duckling Parenting Portal Books About Bullying In the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling, a little duckling is shut out from his friends for being plain, until he matures and grows into a beautiful swan. The Ugly Duckling is a wonderful story for helping children to realise that their worth is often not reflected by what their friends say but rather, comes from what they have inside them.

  Article by Luzmery M. Romero Gamboa/ Jade Maitre Luzmery Child Psychologist StoryberriesLuzmery works in the area of clinical psychology as a psychotherapist for children, adolescents and families. Since 2016, she has run a Psychological Center in Venezuela called Psicoluz. She offers workshop facilitations to parents, is involved in recreational activities for children, and has been working as a freelancer since 2017 performing online psychotherapy.