DISCUSSING BULLYING WITH YOUR KIDS
If your child is being bullied, you want to act to help stop it, if possible. You can help your child cope with teasing, bullying, or mean gossip, and lessen it's lasting impact. Even if bullying isn't an issue right in your house right now, it's important to discuss it so your kids will be prepared if it does happen.
That's exactly why at Social Seeds we have developed a conversation card deck and affirmation cards deck to help initiating and engaging in these conversations simple and as stress free as possible!
When Is it Bullying?
Bullying is intentional and repetitive tormenting in either physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name calling, threats, and mocking to extorting possessions, or physical violence. Some kids bully by shunning or excluding others, or spreading rumours about them. Others use social media or electronic messaging to taunt others or hurt their feelings.
Either way it's important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to "tough out". A bully can turn something as simple as recess breaks, walking home from school or even just scrolling social media into a nightmare for kids and teens.
Contrary to popular belief, words CAN and DO hurt and bullying can leave deep emotional scars. In extreme situations, it can involve violent threats, property damage, or someone getting seriously hurt, resulting in negative self talk, low self esteem, self harm and even suicidal ideation and attempts.
Why Do Kids Bully?
Kids bully for a variety of reasons!
Sometimes they pick on others because they need to hold power over someone who they deem emotionally or physically weaker, or just acts or appears different in some way to feel more important, popular, or in control. Although some bullies are bigger or stronger than their victims, that's not always the case.
Sometimes bullies torment others because that's the way they've been treated. Their behaviour appears normal to them because they come from families or other settings where everyone regularly gets angry and shouts or calls each other names.
Even some seemly innocent, popular TV shows even seem to promote meanness, people are judged, voted off, shunned, or ridiculed for their appearance or lack of talent.
What Are the Signs of Bullying?
Unless your child tells you about bullying, or has visible bruises or injuries it can be difficult to know if your child is experiencing or exposed to bullying.
But there are some warning signs to look out for:
- acting differently or seeming anxious/nervous
- not eating
- not sleeping well
- not engaging in the things they usually enjoy
- increased moodiness or less emotionally regulated
- avoiding certain situations (like taking the bus to school)
It's important to let your kids know that if they're being bullied, harassed, or see it happening to someone else that it's imperative they to talk to someone they can trust about it. Whether it's you, another adult (a teacher, school counsellor, or family friend), or a sibling.
Sometimes kids feel like it's their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn't be happening. Sometimes they're scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won't believe them or do anything about it. Or kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they're scared to.
Explain that it's the bully who is behaving badly, not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
How can we help?
Prevention is always better than cure and knowledge is power!
The best way to prepare kids is to discuss it with them, so that they have the information and a plan on how best to handle themselves and challenging social situations that may arise.
Dealing with bullying can hurt a child's confidence and self esteem. To help rebuild it, encourage your kids to spend time with friends who have a positive influence. Participate in clubs, sports, or other enjoyable activities that build confidence and friendships. Remind them of their worth through consistent affirmations and positive reinforcement!
LISTEN, provide them a listening ear about tough situations, but encourage your kids to also tell you about the good parts of their day, and listen attentively! Make sure they know you believe in them and that you'll do what you can to address any bullying.
Here are some ideas that kids can implement themselves to improve the situation and feel better when experiencing bullying:
- Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don't go to your locker if nobody else is around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you're not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess, wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
- Hold the anger. It's natural to get upset by the bully, but that's what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not reacting by crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it's a useful skill for keeping off of a bully's radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice "cool down" strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths, or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to keep their face and body calm until they are clear of any danger.
- Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone. By ignoring the bully, you're showing that you don't care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
- Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and office staff at school can all help stop bullying.
- Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a counsellor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions. Even if they can't fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.
For more information and support we suggest the following resources: