How To Help A Child Who Is Being Bullied
Anybody who has ever been bullied knows the pain it can cause, but when you're an adult and see a little one going through the same thing, all you want to do is find out how to help a child who is being bullied. Whether the child is your own little one, the child of a friend, or a student in your classroom, it's important to know how you can step in and potentially save a child.
If you don't know a child dealing with a bully, you just aren't looking hard enough. According to the Stop Bullying website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 49 percent of children in grades four through 12 reported being bullied at school at least once in the past month. That's a huge number. When you consider how many of those children are dealing with more than just taunting on the playground, it's even more heartbreaking.
Mayo Clinic noted that children who are bullied are more likely to deal with substance abuse problems, school detentions or suspensions, and they are more likely to drop out of school. Bullied children are also at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, low self-esteem, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
This is something that can't be ignored. Telling your child to "fight back" or to "quit being a pansy" doesn't work in this situation either. If you want to know how to help a child who is being bullied, try these 11 tips so that you can get any kid who needs help out of the darkness and into the light.
1. Create A Safe Place For Them To Talk
One of the hardest things about being bullied is feeling like you can't talk about it. Kids often feel ashamed and embarrassed by it, and are afraid to bring it up to anyone — even a helpful adult. Dr. Kristi Wolf, a licensed clinical psychologist, wrote on her website that it's incredibly important to create a safe place for your child to talk to you. She noted that children, just like adults, want their feelings to be responded to with sensitivity and respect so that they can freely open up to you and share what's happening. Be sure to acknowledge your child's feelings and never brush off any kind of bullying talk, even if all they say is that someone took a red crayon out of their hands. By listening to them and respecting that they were scared or felt bullied, you're opening up the lines of communication for them to continue to share with you.
2. Teach Them The Difference Between Tattling & Asking For Help
Too many children suffer in silence because they are constantly told to stop tattling on their classmates. But there is a huge difference in tattling and reporting a bully. Together Against Bullying suggested that when you talk to your children, remind them of the differences, like tattling is done to get someone in trouble and telling a teacher about bullying is to protect someone. If your kid is concerned about their safety, they should feel comfortable telling an adult what's happening without worry that they are going to be in trouble for tattling.
3. Teach Your Child How To Respond To A Bully
Ignoring a bully isn't advisable. Although it's important to teach your child to not let the bully have control over their emotions, it's just not enough to say "ignore it and it will go away." You have to teach your children to respond to bullies. Parents noted that it's OK to teach your child to stand up for themselves and say, "I don't like it when you do that" or to loudly proclaim, "Stop bothering me." You can talk to your children about positive body language as well — holding their head high, looking the bully in the eyes, and remaining strong and firm. Bullies thrive on those who seem weak, so teach your child to respond strongly to keep the bullying at bay.
4. Let Them Know That How They Feel Is Normal
No matter what they're feeling — anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or sadness — it's all normal. Mayo Clinic noted that some children may release their feelings by destroying items, complaining of physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, and loss of appetite. Talk to your kid and let them know that the way they are feeling is totally normal and there is no shame in being upset or angry about being bullied.
5. Remind Them That They Are Not Alone
So many children are bullied every day and so many think they have to handle the fight alone. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center has created an entire campaign on teaching children that they are not alone in this situation and giving them the confidence they need to speak up to their friends and peers for support and help. Share your own stories of being bullied with your child and reach out to local resources to see if there are groups of kids your child's age who are willing to share their stories.
6. Consider Professional Help If Your Child Has A Hard Time Talking About It
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Stop Bullying, noted that some children may have a hard time talking about being bullied. If this is the case, it might be time to seek professional help. A therapist, counselor, or psychologist may be able to step in and get your child to open up so that they can begin to heal.
7. Ask Your Child What Would Make Them Feel Better
Not just ice cream and a family movie night. Really talk to your kids about where the bullying is coming from and how you can help. Mayo Clinic suggested asking your child what they think would work to stop the bullying. But the Stop Bullying website warned that you have to be careful with any schedule rearranging. Don't single your child out — it's not their fault they are being bullied. Your kid shouldn't have to move to a new classroom or be assigned a new seat on the bus. If your child says being in a classroom without the bully would help, then talk to your child's school about moving the person doing the bullying to keep everyone safe.
8. Don't Let Your Child Blame Themselves
Don't ask them if they encouraged the bullying. Don't ask them if they started it or what they did first. This will only reinforce your child's fear that it's all their fault. STOMP Out Bullying has made it clear in their resources for children that no one deserves to be bullied and it's important to get that message across to your child, even if they feel like they somehow started it.
9. Outline All The Details & Take Action
Eventually, you'll have to use your status as an adult to take action for your child. STOMP Out Bullying recommended that you outline all of the details surrounding your child's experience. Where did it happen? Who did the bullying? What was said? Was your child threatened? Was it physical, verbal, or both? Get as many details as possible and then take action. If it happened at the school, go straight to the principal. Don't get into an altercation with the bully's parents or attempt to sort it out with the bully yourself. Not only can this lead to more issues, it also makes it harder for the school to help.
10. Build Up Your Child's Self Confidence
One of the biggest things you can do for your child is to build up their self confidence. Psychology Today noted that a lot of this starts with teaching your child not to respond to a bully with fear or anger. By giving them the tools they need to handle situations without emotion, they'll gain confidence and know how to stand up to future bullies and to avoid being harassed altogether.
11. Put Them In Positive Situations With Other Children
According to the Stop Bullying website, bullies often group together so they can encourage their behavior and build up a "clique." To counteract this, put your children in positive situations with other kids, like volunteering as a group, a sports team, or a scouts meeting. When they learn to make friends in group situations without hurting each other or encouraging bad behavior, they'll feel more confident and less afraid of groups.