Bullying is a common experience for children. However, it can lead to reduced academic functioning, physical and mental health difficulties, and changes in their view of themselves and others. It is not something to be ignored or swept under the rug. But how can parents help support their children when they are experiencing bullying?
Stay alert and involved.
Children don’t always share that they are being bullied. Try to be attentive to subtle changes in your child’s demeanour that might indicate something is wrong. Encourage them to talk about what is happening without pressuring. Check in with their teacher if you feel like something might be happening that isn’t being discussed.
Support your child’s mental health.
Whether you are aware of bullying or not, do what you can to help maintain your child’s psychological well-being. Teach them to identify their feelings. Help them to learn basic coping strategies to manage difficult thoughts and feeling (e.g., positive self-talk, deep breathing). Encourage them to do things that they enjoy and that gives them a sense of accomplishment. If mental health difficulties are severe or persistent, seek out the support of a mental health professional.
Build a strong relationship with your child.
One of the key factors that reduces the likelihood of negative outcomes associated with bullying is a strong family support system. To build this, intentionally set aside time to spend with your child and engage in their preferred activities. Ask how they are and really listen to the response. When they do share their feelings, validate them and show you understand. If they are struggling, ask if there is anything you can do to support them.
Encourage them to connect with supportive peers.
Bullying can often feel isolating and discouraging, but social connections can buffer these effects. Connecting with peers who also experience bullying can normalize the experience. Whether it’s enrolling your child in a group activity, taking them to a friend’s house, or just letting them spend a little extra time chatting with friends on the phone, do your best to make sure your child is maintaining positive social connections whenever possible.
While there are many potential negative effects of bullying, not all children who are bullied experience related difficulties. These are just a few things you can do to help ensure that bullying does not lead to lasting issues in your child’s life.