Editors Note: this is part 2 of our 3 part bullying series
Any child being bullied is just plain awful. Life is hard enough with out bullies for kids so being targeted by a bully can feel life altering and scarring to a young child and their family.
Parents, you can’t eradicate bullies but you can impact outcomes when your child is bullied. In my experience how you, a parent, responds to your child who has been bullied is essential for their emotional health and is an important step in helping your child work through their experience.
Here Are 3 Critical Responses to Bullying
Empathy is critical, it is sharing in your child’s feelings. This is shown best by Responding vs. Reacting. Here is an example:
Respond: “Ouch, what Johnny did to you sounds so hurtful”
React: “WHAT? Well what did you do first?”
Engaging is joining with your child, entering into the problem at hand. This can look like telling your child how you feel about the situation as well as asking them how they feel. This is a natural follow up to empathizing. It could look something like the following:
“Ouch, what Johnny did to you sounds so hurtful. I feel kinda mad at him for doing that to you. I wonder how you feel?”
3. Problem Solving
Problem Solving is important for you and your child in a bullying situation so that you have a plan to deal with your feelings and to work towards changing the situation.
Creating a plan empowers you and your child to effect change and to push back against being victimized. Your plan can be simple or elaborate, but your involvement as a parent in this process is crucial.
“Hearing about what happened makes me so mad. Part of me wants to just go and hurt Johnny and get even, but I know that even if it may feel good in the moment, it won’t really solve the problem. What do you think we should do?”
At this point, come up with a number of different ways you and your child could potentially deal with the bullying. Empower your child through practicing what you came up with and support them every step of the way.
Sometimes kids who have been bullied need a little extra help to deal with the mental angst. Seeking out extra help depends on the individual child’s need and also the severity and/or length the bullying has been going on.
If your child is showing signs pointing to severe bullying such as excessive worrying, fear, depression, panic, or withdrawal, your response to problem solving should include seeking out mental health counseling or a support group for you and your child.
If your child has been or is being bullied use these 3 parenting strategies to impact the outcome with your child. Empathize, Engage and Problem Solve regularly with your child. Practice responding vs. reacting in order to raise kids who are able to integrate the emotional challenges of life.
And, don’t parent alone!
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