Bullying 101 – Helping Your Child
How to talk to your child about bullying?
Clear communication with your child is integral in fostering an open and honest relationship.
You want your child to trust you, so the child feels comfortable to come to you, without fear. Think of it as creating a safe zone, where your child can feel unthreatened and free to talk to you.
As the parent, you need to ask your child about the incident, and LISTEN to their response without condemnation. Instead remain calm and neutral, while you gather information.
- What happened? – what is the incident?
- What happened before the incident?
- What happened after the incident?
- Who was around when the incident occurred?
- Did you tell the teacher/principal?
- What did they do/ how did they handle it?
- How did it make you feel?
Bullying breaks down a person – their confidence, their strength. As a parent, when reacting to bullying, you need to restore your child’s confidence and strength. That’s the role of the parent in this situation, to support your child. Even the child who is the aggressor does so out of a need to feel stronger or better about themselves in some way. Evaluate where your child may be experiencing disempowerment and work to rectify it.
This may include:
- Exclusion, taunts or abuse from older siblings, from parents, teachers, older or bigger schoolmates
- Lack of space to explore their interests, leading to suppressed energy and frustration
- Psychological issues with anger, depression, attention deficiencies, etc
Addressing this means having open and honest conversation with your child, and possibly seeking the help of a psychologist or counsellor.
Creating a “Safe zone”
There are various techniques used to create a safe talking space. You can experiment with various methods to see what works for you (e.g a talking stick, or a podium).
But the underlying principles are the same.
- One person speaks at a time
- Attention and respect is given to the speaker
- The speaker is allowed to voice their concerns without being badgered, taunted or ridiculed during or after they have spoken.
- It is a space for sharing, not attacking! – share the details of the incident, what happened, how it made you feel, and what you would like to see be different in the future
- Avoid yelling, blaming and pointing fingers
- Work through emotions not against them. For instance, someone may feel angry. Instead of saying “don’t be angry”, try to find the source of the anger. Is it from feeling unheard? Is it from not having one’s desires met?
Through the safe zone you are making a space where your child can come to you with any concern. As a parent, you should not encourage secrets or create an environment where the child is afraid to speak to you. This can result in their keeping quiet about things that are harming them out of fear of getting in trouble.
The safe zone allows both parent and child to communicate and resolve conflict in a healthy way.