Bullying has been widely talked about in mainstream media within the past year, but recent statistics indicate that 78 per cent of Canadians believe that not enough is being done to stop it in their communities2.
One step we can all take is to empower young people to do something about bullying, like reaching out for help. In 2013, Kids Help Phone saw a 10 per cent increase in calls related to bullying and harassment during Bullying Awareness Week.
What can parents do to help a kid who is being bullied?
How can you support a young person who is bullying others and wants to stop?
What kind of guidance can you give to a kid who is witnessing bullying at school or online and isn’t sure what to do?
Bullying can take many forms, and isn’t confined to the classroom or schoolyard. It can happen face-to-face; online through social networks, chat rooms, of forums; through text messaging or notes passed in class. It can be verbal or physical, but no matter what form it takes, it is a negative, aggressive action where someone uses power over someone else in a targeted and often repeated way that can hurt, humiliate, demean, frighten, or exclude that person.
Is there such a thing as “just teasing”?
It isn’t always easy to know where the line is drawn between bullying and teasing.
While teasing can be seen as a friendly, warm way of joking, it becomes bullying when it turns from something affectionate to hostile, leaving someone feeling embarrassed, alienated, or hurt.
It might be hard for parents to know whether their kid is feeling hurt or upset by being teased. If you are not sure, find an appropriate moment when you can ask them about it.
How to Help Your Child if They are Being Bullied
If your kid tells you about a bullying-related incident they experienced or witnessed, let them know that are there to help them.
It’s important that your kid knows you take their concerns seriously.
Kids might not always be so direct as to say, “I’m being bullied,” so it’s also important for parents to be able to help them understand what they are going through if someone is hurting them.
Keeping the family computer in a central location can also help parents to stay aware of online activities, including cyberbullying.
Help kids do the right thing
Eighty-seven per cent of Canadian students in grades 8-10 reported witnessing school bullying in the last year, but did you know that bullying stops within 10 seconds more than half of the time when a bystander intervenes?
That means one person really can make a difference.
If your kid is a bystander in a bullying incident, help them understand that it’s important they speak up.
Be assertive, not aggressive
Fighting back or responding to abuse or rumours with more of the same isn’t a reasonable solution.
If the bullying taking place at school, consider reporting it to the school principal. If you feel that your child is physically at risk, call the police.
If the bullying is happening online, there may be ways to report it or it block it. You and your kid might want to check out the safety features and policies of any social networks or online platforms in question.
If your kid is bullying
While it might be hard to learn that your kid is bullying, having them acknowledge that there is a problem is an important first step.
Kids who bully need support, too. Young people who bully can experience depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and school and relationship problems.
Let your kid know that taking responsibility for their actions is a step towards change. A lot of people who bully learn how to act differently and develop healthy friendships.
Kids Help Phone’s “I want to stop bullying workbook” is one resource that can help kids take steps towards change.
Be mindful of mixed messages
It’s easy for parents to worry about their kids, especially when topics like bullying are making headlines.
Sometimes, if kids see that a parent or trusted adult is worried or afraid about something, they might hesitate to open up about it because they don’t want to add more stress.
Remind kids they can talk to you, no matter what, and follow through on your promise to be there for them, no matter what.
1 PREVNet: “Bullying Statistics,” http://www.prevnet.ca/research/bullying-statistics
2 PREVNet: “Bullying Statistics,” http://www.prevnet.ca/research/bullying-statistics