How to Deal with Bullying
After working with teens and young adults for years, including in schools, I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with active bullying and helping people recover from the effects of bullying. Following my contribution to a News 2 WKRN mental health special on teen bullying, I wanted to put out a little more information out about the topic. There was really too much to fit into one blog post, so I decided to break it up into 5 parts. You can find the first 4 parts of the series here:
The earlier blogs covered a lot of different aspects of teen bullying. At the end of the day, though, we need to talk about how to deal with it. We can have all the information in the world, but the usefulness really comes when we can do something with it. Let’s look at prevention, how to deal with a case of bullying that’s in progress, and how to deal with the effects of bullying.
How do we prevent bullying?
Here’s how we can try. It has a lot to do with choices that we adults make. First, by showing our kids what respectful communication, appropriate boundaries, and healthy relationships look like, our kids get a good idea of how to treat others. Practicing these things every day can give our kids a sense of what it like to receive positive, healthy communication. They’re more likely to internalize that and spread it around to others. They will also be more likely to have relationships that have those aspects. This means relationships that don’t involve bullying. This also decreases the likelihood of them dealing with significant emotional difficulties. When I refer to “us” and “our children,” that doesn’t stop with the people that live under our roof or go to our school. These are just good relationship rules to live by, right?
How do you get bullying to stop?
When bullying is going on, it may be really frustrating to get it to stop.
- If it is happening at school, speaking with a school administrator or school counselor (including STARS counselor in select schools) is a good bet. They may want to make sure that it happened at school, which may be a challenge to prove with cyberbullying, unless you can show time stamps for proof.
- If bullying is happening outside of school, authorities may need to be involved eventually.
- In either case, your child may have to give a detailed report, and evidence may have to be produced. It may be difficult for your child to report. They may feel intimidated, scared, anxious, or have a fear that they won’t be supported or believed. It is important to show support to your child and try to understand any reluctance.
- You can speak with the bullying child’s parent, provided that you are able to remain calm while doing so. However, there is no guarantee that they will speak to you, and it carries its own risks.
- You and your child can identify supports that they can turn to in any given setting. These people are preferably responsible adults, and you may need to let them know that your child might look to them for support.
- Don’t label kids as “bullies” or “victims.” This can lead kids to feel that this is just what they are – like they have a role to fill. It is recommended to use terms like “the person who bullied” or “the person who was bullied.” This gives a situational connotation instead of the feeling of a permanent label.
How do you deal with the effects of bullying?
We all handle things in our own way. Dealing with the effects of bullying is no different.
- Let your child know that you’re available for support. They may or may not express to you how they feel about the situation, but it’s good to let them know that you’re there for them.
- Watch out for signs that your teen is having trouble dealing with the effects of bullying.
- Changes in sleep, appetite, weight, appearance, social activity, grades, self-care, hygiene, and other signs discussed in Part 4 are things that you should keep an eye out for. Increased irritability and anger are also signs to be aware of.
- If you’re a teen reading this, watch out for these kinds of changes. We aren’t always aware that these have to do with our mood, and we may wonder why life suddenly feels different.
- These changes in behavior can communicate feelings as loudly as words can. They can be signs of depression, anxiety, development of low self-esteem or lower confidence, or difficulty in coping with trauma.
- If you or your teen need some help dealing with effects of this difficult situation, reach out to someone who specializes in this kind of thing. Some school personnel are able to help or provide support. Feel free to check on confidentiality rules for those working within schools, as they may have special policies for taking action on bullying. You can also reach out to a counselor outside of school. Please feel free to let me know if there is anything I can do for you, your teen, or your young adult. Bullying is no secret to me, and I’m here for you.
I hope the information on teen bullying has been useful to you. If you still have questions or concerns that I may be able to help you out with, you can contact me any time.