By Marcia Hall
Though bullying is certainly not a new problem that children face, in recent years it has escalated to a level that children have never before experienced. Parents whose children are being bullied often do not know how to help, however, there are many things that can be done to support, comfort and assist the child through this troubling time.
Stay connected with the child’s friends by allowing and encouraging him to have friends over. When parents encourage their child’s friends to spend time at the house where parents can witness the type of interactions that occur, parents are able to better appreciate the world their child lives in. This will also help encourage the child to open up and share more experiences and feelings with his parents.
Give your children a break from the pressures of their social media life. One of the reasons bullying today is so alarming is that a good majority of it does not happen in person, but instead occurs virtually through social media sites. Because of this, a good way to help protect your child from the sorrow of cyber bullying is to create a “turn off time” in the house. This is the time that all phones, computers, tablets and desktops get turned off for the night. With this rule in place, your child at least has a time when he is not allowed to see or hear any hurtful comments. It may not make the comments go away, but being forced to turn everything off for a while will make difference and give him some respite from the attacks if he is a victim of cyber bullying.
Fully listen to the child’s side of the story. Sometimes parents hear part of the story and assume they know the rest. It is very important to a child’s emotional stability to be fully heard by at least one person. When a child can trust that his parents will listen to him fully no matter what, it gives him the strength to be honest about the issues he’s facing.
When a child shares an incident of bullying, respond with loving concern rather than trying to immediately fix the problem. Often, when parents first hear about a bullying incident, their initial reaction is to quickly find a solution. This can frustrate a child who simply wanted someone to know what he is going though. Avoid instantly coming back to him with simple “solutions” or even cliché’s that will do nothing to help the situation.
Ask the child how he wants to be helped before jumping in to fix the problem. Many times children really just want a shoulder to cry on and are not looking for parents to help them fix anything. Parents should have a discussion with their child before they come up with any solutions to the problem.
Validate the child’s emotions. No matter what, the child is looking for someone to tell him it is ok to be worried, angry and even scared about being bullied. Parents can validate these emotions by sharing stories from their own childhood and making sure the child knows that he has done nothing wrong. Above all else, a child should walk away from his parents knowing that what he said is confidential and safe with them.
Rather than making blanket statements, ask the child questions to help him look at the issue from a different perspective. Questions are the best way to help a child discover his own feelings about the situation at hand. Choose questions that will help him think not just about how he feels about what happened, but also why he might feel that way. “Tell me more about that.” “Why do you think that hurt you so much?” “How did everyone around you respond?” “What can you do to change the situation?” “What do you want to do about it?” These are a few questions that can help lead the child to discover how he really feels and what he wants to do about the situation.
Avoid being too directly involved in any issues your children has with their peers. Most parents want to not only help the child fix the problem, but also to fix the problem themselves. While there is most definitely a time to talk to teachers and principals and to advocate for the child in other ways, the best and most effective thing a parent can do to help a child who is being bullied is to lead the child to his own conclusions about how to address the situation and then support and encourage him when he follows through on those actions. Becoming directly involved can not only be embarrassing for a child, it also make the situation much worse. In addition, it does not teach the child how to respond to these types of situations in life.
No parent wants their child to be bullied, but finding the right balance of love, observation and action can help a child not only get through the difficult events that are inevitable in childhood these days, but actually become a stronger and more resilient adult because of them.