THE BLOG

How To Help Your Child If They're Being Bullied At School

It's about self-esteem, social skills and, of course, your support.

14/09/2017 9:50 AM AEST | Updated 26/09/2017 11:46 AM AEST
praetorianphoto via Getty Images
"Become a good listener and communicator. Asking "how can I help you?", or just sympathising with how your child feels can promote supportive communication."

A bullying incident could be the perfect opportunity to teach your child about conflict resolution. Nowadays, more and more schools are on board addressing schoolyard bullying, and establishing ways to collaborate effectively with parents and students about particular disputes.

To understand the nature of bullying, it's important to be clear about the definition. The national definition, according to Australia's Safe and Supportive School Communities Working Group is as follows:

"Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert)."

The distressing and harmful nature of bullying highlights the importance of the safety and well-being of the child. Disputes and disagreements are a part of life, but we are rarely taught how to deal or cope with them. We are therefore usually unprepared for a bullying situation. The strategies given here are for incidents caught early, and are to help empower the child and parents through effective communication.

The school has a responsibility for the safety of your child. Once the incident is reported to the school, it allows for a collaborative approach, where the parents can then work on important strategies to help empower their child.

Here are six tips to help a child who has been bullied at school:

1. Create a warm and supportive environment at home.

Become a good listener and communicator. Asking "how can I help you?", or just sympathising with how your child feels can promote supportive communication. Be open, and remain calm, especially if the incident hurts you to listen. Reacting strongly may prevent your child from communicating further with you.

2. Work on conflict resolution.

Help your child manage conflict by encouraging them to communicate their needs and wants, and provide them with strategies to help solve the problem. Giving as many options as possible to help find a solution will help a child feel more in control, and ultimately, boost their self-esteem.

3. Be a positive role model.

Don't retaliate. As tempting as it may be, retaliating against the family won't help your child solve the problem. Rather than reacting strongly towards the family and incident, stay calm about the situation -- you will guide your child's behaviour by modelling to them the appropriate ways to react.

4. Build your child's self-esteem.

Never blame your child, if they feel blamed for the incident it may prevent them from continuing to talk to you. With your support, allow your child to express their concerns easily, which will help to empower them.

Although they are a victim, you don't want them to feel like one. A major cause of low self-esteem is when a child develops a victim mentality (i.e. they feel like a victim and powerless). Highlighting your child's achievements, skills, or strengths, can provide ways to build a child's self-esteem, which will enable them to work confidently with given strategies.

5. Teach your child how to react.

A bully will pick on someone who they can get a reaction from and will tease a person who gets upset and distressed easily. Practice strategies with your child that will either help them not to react, or react in a calm manner. For example, it could be: ignoring the bully's comment, looking the bully in the eye and telling them to stop, or finding humour in what they've said and learning not to take it personally.

6. Improve your child's social skills and encourage friendships.

Research has identified that while it is essential for parents to provide a warm and supportive environment, it is also important to help encourage friendships to protect against further bullying. Forming true friendships creates a supportive network, which can also provide circumstances to build social and emotional resilience.

Encouraging appropriate social skills can even begin with interactions between siblings and other family members. And, if an incident comes up, offering guidance and support promptly will help reinforce appropriate social skills. Don't forget to praise your child when they perform the appropriate behaviour.

It's important to get to know websites and social media networks that your child might be using, and talk with them about how to use social media safely.

Remember, if your child is being bullied at school, discuss your concerns with the school and obtain their advice on how best to proceed. And, if you're still concerned for your child and feel they need further assistance, contact professional help.

A bullying incident might just provide that major turning point in a child's life, where learning about conflict resolution can provide the opportunity to build strength and resilience.

____________________________

You can read more about bullying on these websites:

Bullying. No Way

Kids Help Line

Australian Psychology Society

More On This Topic