With the National Bullying Prevention month coming up in October, it’s a good time for parents to empower their children to identify bullying and know what to do if it happens to them or if they see someone getting bullied.
Help Your Teen Identify What Is Bullying
Most of us parents don’t want to think that our kids are victims of bullying, but sadly, it’s something that’s all too common in schools. Thanks to the internet, bullying has evolved and gone digital. Bullies these days are using social media, emails, texts and even creating sites to threaten, intimidate or ridicule other students.
Some teens may not even understand that their behaviors are bullying. Kids can sometimes confuse teasing and bullying, but the two are entirely different. Teasing usually happens between friends and all parties can reciprocate. Most importantly, the intent isn’t to hurt, and if your teen is uncomfortable, the other party stops the teasing.
Bullying, however, is intended to hurt, intimidate or embarrass the victim. It is a repeated pattern of behavior, and the victim is unable to protect themselves.
What To Do If Your Teen Is Being Bullied
Many children will experience bullying before they graduate high school. To help them appropriately deal with bullying, try these things:
- Emphasize it’s not their fault. Some teens internalize bullying and blame themselves for getting bullied. Let your teen know that bullies are in the wrong and their behavior is unacceptable.
- Provide a safe and supportive shoulder. Your teen is likely to feel vulnerable, insecure, frightened or angry after being bullied and might not want to talk right away. If they do want to talk, listen without judgment and let them vent and work out their feelings.
- Help them come up with a plan to respond to the situation. Having a plan of action against bullies gives your teen a sense of control over the situation. Practice role-playing what they can do, e.g., walking away, ignoring the bully, loudly telling the bully to stop, etc.
- Find ways to boost their self-confidence. Being bullied can be rough on your teen’s self-confidence, so encourage them to build their self-esteem and strengths by seeking out areas they excel in, e.g., sports, art or dance.
What Your Teen Can Do After Witnessing Bullying
The bystander effect can leave your child unsure of what to do when they witness someone being bullied. Teach them these tips on how to react when they see someone being bullied:
- They should never join in. Emphasize that picking on someone is never okay and your teen shouldn’t join in just because “everyone else is doing it”.
- Encourage them to support the victim privately or publicly. If they are confident enough, they can publicly speak out against the bullying to get it to stop. If not, they could go to the victim privately and offer encouragement.
- Ask them to report it to a trusted adult. Your teen might worry that they’re tattling, but let them know that by reporting the bullying to an adult who can stop it shows that they’re concerned for the victim’s welfare, and this is commendable.
Empowering your teen to stand up against bullying can prevent the situation from getting out-of-hand and might even inspire other students to also speak out.
Tyler Jacobson is a father of three and avid outdoor enthusiast. He’s learned a thing or two about parenting and has turned from a full time career in digital media to helping fellow parents of teenagers. He pulls from his own life experiences raising spunky, free-spirited children, as well as his work with various organizations that help teens be their best selves. During his free time, Tyler enjoys taking his family into the mountains to connect with a simpler side of life which he finds grounding and rejuvenating.