How To Help Your Bullied Child
Bullying is an all-too-common experience for children. They may have seen a peer become a victim, been the target themselves or might even be the aggressor. As a parent, it can be difficult to know when to step in and what to do. To help, here is a quick look into the potential impacts of bullying along with steps parents can take to address the situation.
The Impacts of Bullying
Bullying is characterized by a pattern of behaviors, meaning the actions are repeated and not an isolated incident. Whether it’s through deliberate physical violence or psychological abuse, the intent remains the same: to cause pain and gain power.
Nowadays, bullying isn’t limited to the schoolyard. It often follows a child everywhere through various online platforms such as social media, texting, emailing or instant messaging. Commonly referred to as cyberbullying, this form of victimization could be potentially more detrimental to a child’s well-being as it can spread quickly to a wider audience and leave a permanent online imprint for everyone involved.
Whichever form bullying takes, there can be both short-term and long-lasting effects. Aside from physical harm, bullying can affect a child’s academic performance, psychological problems could develop and even suicidal ideation may arise. Such mental health and emotional damage may lead to problems later in life with relationship issues, substance abuse and so much more.
Steps Parents Can Take to Help
One of the most important ways parents can help their children is to listen. Being supportive, but neutral, as a child opens up about witnessing violence or being bullied is difficult as emotions tend to create strong reactions. However, calmness and compassion are necessary in helping the child feel comfortable enough to share. Parents should remember in these situations to not blame the victim by finding a reason for the abuse. The responsibility lies solely with the bully.
What if a parent suspects bullying but a child won’t admit to it? Often, a child is embarrassed by what’s happening or unsure how a parent will react. In these scenarios, a parent should look out for possible signs of being bullied such as:
- Reluctance to attend school
- Refusing to go to the bathroom at school
- Behavioral changes, such as mood swings, angry outbursts or self-isolation
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Getting upset after receiving a text, phone call or message
- Unexpected loss of friends
- Saying negative things about themselves
What to Do if Your Child Is the Bully
Children act out for a number of reasons. It could be they want to fit in with their peers, are trying to fill a void in attention, feel insecure or are dealing with complicated emotions from past trauma. Parents should talk about the negative behavior while encouraging empathy for the victim. They should also go over constructive ways to cope with what’s triggering the behavior and how to effectively apologize. There should also be appropriate, nonviolent consequences for their actions. If bullying continues, it’s essential to pursue professional help from a child behavioral specialist or a counselor they feel comfortable speaking with regularly.
Create a Support System
Being active in a child’s life and taking measures to prevent bullying doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Parents should reach out to teachers, guidance counselors and administrators for advice as well as ways to give the child more control. By building a supportive network and finding solutions at school, a bullied child may not feel so hopeless and come through the ordeal without long-lasting effects.
For further information on childhood bullying, please see the accompanying resource.
Kids Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of children. The organization partners with a number of well-known nonprofits serving children and teens who are confronted with physical, mental and emotional challenges to provide the care they need.