How To Talk To Your Child About Bullying

July 14, 2017

 Graphic provided by Gracie Barra.


Everyone plays a role in the education and prevention of bullying. While schools and educators work hard to address the issue, one of the best lines of defense is to educate children at home. Parents can have a much greater impact on the issue with their children than teachers who only have students in class for a limited time. Some of the ways we can do this are:

·   Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help

·  Communicate! Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.   

·  Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior. 

·  Model how to treat others with respect.

Help Kids Understand Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. More importantly, kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

·  Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.

·  Talk about how to stand up to children who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away

·  Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.

·  Urge them to stand up for kids being bullied by showing kindness or getting help.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Research tells us that children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:

·   What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?

·   What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about? 

·   What is it like to ride the school bus? 

·   What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?  

 Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage kids to answer them honestly. Assure kids that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these: 

·   What does “bullying” mean to you?

·   Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully? 

·   Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying? 

·   Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it? 

·   What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying? 

·   Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not? 

·   What do you usually do when you see bullying going on? 

·   Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel? 

·   Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?  

Dealing with Bullying Issues


 When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe. 

·   Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.

·   Separate the kids involved. 

·   Make sure everyone is safe. 

·    Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders. 

·   Model respectful behavior when you intervene. 

 Avoid these common mistakes: 

·   Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help. 

·   Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts. 

·   Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.

·   Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids. 

·   Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately. 

·   Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.  

Get all the facts to determine if the situation is even a bullying issue in the first place.


Supporting Everyone Involved


The Bullied:

 - Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.  

- Assure the child that bullying is not their fault. 

- Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service

- Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the child might react if the bullying occurs again.

Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. The child, parents, and school or organization may all have valuable input. It may help to:

·  Ask the child being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging classroom or bus seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching classrooms or bus routes, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.

·  Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between schools, organizations, and parents. Discuss the steps that are taken and the limitations around what can be done based on policies and laws. Remember, the law does not allow school officials to discuss discipline, consequences, or services given to other children.

Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.

Avoid these mistakes:

·  Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.

·  Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.

·  Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying unless as a last resort or if in imminent danger. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.

·  Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents. 

Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops.

    In the next part of this series we will discuss how to address the behavior of bullying. One of the most critical aspects of bullying prevention is giving all parties involved valuable, applicable tools to deal with all facets of this issue. If you or your child needs assistance with a bullying issue or have further questions, please feel free to contact us