Tips for helpful communications with your child about bullying
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As parents and carers, you will often be the first to know your child is experiencing bullying behaviour from another child or group of children. Our natural reaction as parents is to protect our children. If as parents, we experienced bullying as a child or teenager, hearing our children are going through similar experiences can activate pain and anger we are still carrying from what we went through.
Our children usually have not learnt the skill of choosing their time to tell us things that are important. Often important topics are blurted out when they are thinking about it and feeling comfortable in themselves. This can often be when we are racing through the supermarket, trying to think about what to prepare for dinner after a stressful day in the office.
All these things, our desire to protect our children, our own pain and anger and the stresses of the day can create messy and unhelpful communications with our children around the topic of bullying.
Tips to have helpful communications with your child.
- If your child has chosen a time that isn’t the best, let them know what they are saying is important; that you want to give them your full attention and make a time when you can be present to what they are saying.
- Let your child talk about their experience. As parents, we think we must have the answers, but often what our children need is to be heard.
- Remember to ask your child how the experience makes them feel. Sometimes we assume what our children are feeling based on how we feel. We need to verify what our children are feeling not just make assumptions.
- Talk about behaviours rather than labels such as “bully” and “victim”. Bullying behaviours can change, but often labels such as “bully” or “victim” stick. It is not helpful for you to be labelling your child a ‘victim’.
- Encourage your child to think about choices in how to respond to what they are experiencing. Experiencing bullying behaviour from another person often leaves us feeling isolated and powerless. Encouraging your child to develop options helps them feel more in control and not as powerless in the situation.
- Remind your child of all that is right with them! Children who engage in bullying behaviour often pick on things they think are wrong with the other person. It can be something physical, emotional or a way of responding. It is easy for our children, when they experience bullying behaviour to believe there is something wrong with them. They need us a parents and carers to remind them of all that is right, unique and beautiful about them.