WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED? ACT LIKE AN APE!
Bullying is insidious. It has been linked to an increase of mental health difficulties in those being bullied and an increase in criminal offender to those are engaging in bullying behaviour.
It is not just children who can feel powerless when bullying behaviour occurs. As a parent when you child tells you they are being bullied, picked on, victimised you may feel powerless, angry, sad. It may trigger memories of similar things happening to you. It may reflect what is happening to you in your workplace. As bullying behaviour occurs everywhere – wherever there is a power imbalance.
So, what should you do as a parent. I have outlined a structure that you may find helpful. One thing you can do as a parent is to act like an APE.
When you see a change in your child’s behaviour. They may start having sleep difficulties, not want to go to school, or start acting out. When you know that something is not quite right, or when they tell you someone is picking on them at school, or online, or in their football team. However this information comes to you the first thing to do is to acknowledge it.
Well-meaning parents in an attempt to minimise what is happening or from a place of not knowing what to do may make comments such as “ignore them”, “find someone else to play with”, “they’re just jealous”, “I’m sure they didn’t mean it”, “don’t whine”, and “toughen up”. Ever heard these? Ever said these?
Before you say anything – listen. Let your child tell you how they are feeling or ask them how they are feeling. Acknowledge their feelings. Ask your child what they want to do. Acknowledge their thoughts
“ignore them”, “find someone else to play with”, “they’re just jealous”, “I’m sure they didn’t mean it”, “don’t whine”, and “toughen up”. Ever heard these? Ever said these?
Play detective and gather information. Who, what, when, where. Get a copy of your school’s anti bullying policy and share this with your child. These actions show your child that you are taking them seriously. It can also help identify the type of bullying, and sometimes whether it was a misinterpretation by your child. Another benefit is it shows your child that being bullied happens to other people too.
Then depending on the information you have found you can create a plan. This will generally involve talking with the school who can help with putting in place the school bullying plan and providing a supportive structure.
If it is cyberbullying many schools will also help with this. Take three steps yourself: screenshot, report, block.
The other part of the plan is…
Bullying revolves around social relationships where there is unequal power. You can power up your child, either by yourself or with the help of professionals. This is done through helping them regulate their emotions, helping them understand their behaviour and how it impacts on other people, educating them on how bullies choose their targets; increasing their self-esteem; and teaching assertive verbal and non-verbal behaviours.
Part of empowering children is for the action plan to involve the child, parent and school. How the child wants to resolve this is important. For example, many children present with ‘frenemies’ and it is important for the child to see if this friendship can be resurrected. When they are in control and can try for themselves they have the opportunity to see if the ‘frenemy’ is really a friend, or someone they choose to let go from their life.
In my work I have found that when children are involved in the plan and decide to empower themselves their self-esteem can blossom.
If you think being an APE could work for you and your child contact me on 0408533515; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/positiveyoungmindspsychology/.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.