Bullying is something most people face at one point or another in their lives. And, it seems our children are facing it at younger and younger ages these days. Since the reality is that most of our children will encounter a bully, it makes sense we should equip them with tools for handling those situations before they need them. Taking a proactive approach to equipping children to deal with bullying can be really helpful in diffusing bullying before it becomes something that causes deep scars.
Here are 5 ideas for helping prepare your children to deal with the bullies they may face:
They can diffuse the situation by responding in ways that are not emotionally charged and that do not put down the bully. Acknowledge any “truth” in what they have said, but don’t let it become emotional. If someone calls them “4 eyes,” they can acknowledge that they have glasses and say, “yes, I have to use glasses now, but one day, I hope to get contacts or have lasik surgery.” Or if someone calls them “ugly,” a response might be, “yeah unfortunately, I didn’t get to choose what I looked like.” And sometimes, the best response is to just laugh and walk away.
- Role play. Talk through scenarios where your child might encounter a bully, and discuss and practice different things that could be said and done to diffuse the situation. Our children often benefit from having specific phrases of things they can say to respond to a bully. Much like fire drills at school, the more we practice when it isn’t an emergency, the more confident we are to respond with the real emergency is upon us.
- Help your kids to stand confident. It has been said that how you look when you encounter a bully is even more important than what you say. Encouraging our children to stand tall, speak clearly and to look into the eyes of others when they’re speaking and being spoken to are all things that can help them to be less of a target to bullies.
- Check-in regularly. Keeping the line of communication open between children and parents is very important. Often, kids are not going to come to you with a problem, but giving a consistent opportunity to discuss it helps a lot. It lets them know that you do care and that you do want to be able to be a support and help them with situations they may be facing. When we as parents take the lead of initiating discussion, it removes that barrier to open communication.
- Encourage healthy relationships. Our children gain confidence by experiencing healthy relationships with others. Encouraging and supporting our children as they pursue their interests and hobbies, extracurricular activities and healthy friendships where they thrive are all ways to increase confidence in our children, again, making them less of a target for bullies looking to intimidate and control others.
- Teach your child to be an upstander. An upstander is someone who doesn’t just sit back and hesitantly watch someone else being mistreated. Rather, when they notice or sense that something isn’t right, they are equipped to confidently stand up and support the person being bullied, which may include seeking out help from an adult.
If the effects of bullying have gotten out of control for your child, reach out. Other parents, school administrators and counselors can help you and your child to deal with the situation and heal from the hurts. Here at New Horizons Center for Healing, we have board-certified counselors and psychologists, conveniently located in the North Dallas area, available to help.