No parent wants to think about their child being bullied. If you’ve recently discovered that your child is a victim or suspect they might be, you may feel powerless or unsure how to go about it. By learning a few strategies and understanding what it can look like, you can help your child handle bullying.

What is bullying?

Bullying can be defined by intentional physical, verbal, or psychological torment. It can range anywhere from hitting, shoving, threatening to extort money and personal belongings. With the addition of social media usage in kids, bullies can hurt other kids online. 

Unless your child has told you that they're being bullied, it can be tough to know whether this is the case. Typical bullying symptoms include physical complaints such as tummy aches, worries and fears, and a child not wanting to go to school. Kids typically defend themselves by withdrawing or avoiding the things that cause stress.

Ask questions to get them talking about it. Try to understand which friends are supportive and get along with your child and which ones aren't. Establishing good communication should start well before bullying problems but can always be improved.

What can you do as a parent?

Once you've determined that your child is a victim of bullying, consider utilizing these 4 strategies:

  • Role-play "what If" scenarios. This is a great way to build confidence and help your child feel empowered. You can role-play the bully while your child practices potential responses until they feel confident enough to handle troublesome situations. Teach them how to speak in a confident, firm tone.
  • Maintain open communication—Check-in with them from time to time about how things are going at school. Don't be intrusive, but instead use a calm, nurturing tone, so they're not afraid to tell you if something's wrong. Emphasize that their wellbeing and safety is essential and that they can reach out to you or another adult if there are any issues.
  • Restore their confidence. Being bullied can feel embarrassing, demeaning, and scary. If serious enough, it can affect your child’s mental health. Tell your child the unique qualities you admire about them and continue to talk to them about how they feel. If possible, create opportunities for playdates and social interactions with other friends you trust to be kind to your child to rebuild their social confidence. This process can take time, and your child will need your support!
  • Be supportive. Please remind your child that it's not their fault and they're not alone. Teach them how to identify their feelings to communicate about what's going on, which may require you to talk about your feelings. Your child being picked on or teased shouldn't be accepted. Helping your child deal with a bully will build confidence and prevent a difficult situation from escalating.

While you may find some of these tips helpful, there isn't a clear cut solution to bullying. Working with a licensed and compassionate therapist can also help improve self-esteem, provide resources, and help inform you and your child about what you can do in dealing with your unique situation.