It is terrible to find out that your kid is being bullied at school. What is even more terrible is to remain unaware about it. The chances for the second option are pretty high, since children, especially teenagers, rarely tell their parents about it for several reasons. They may consider sharing this information as weakness, they do not want to “snitch”, or they think that parents’ involvement would only make the situation worse.

Regardless of how you have found out about this unpleasant truth, you probably feel the need to help your child. However, what is the best way for doing it? What words would be better to use? What advice should be given?

What advice parents shouldn’t give their kids

Parents often fail to support their kids, despite having the best intentions. For instance, with all the wisdom of 30+-year-olds they can say, “Do not be so sensitive”, what kids may perceive as “Your worries are not important, you overdramatize the situation”. We should also consider how fragile a bullied kid becomes, when consistently tormented. The smallest of triggers can cause nervousness and anxiety.

After surveying 12,000 students throughout the US, the Youth Voice Project found, that the advice we typically give kids in such cases, like “tell the person how you feel,” “walk away,” “tell the person to stop,” “pretend it doesn’t bother you”, did make things worse for the respondents “much more often than they made things better.” At the same time, the survey found the top 3 helpful things adults did to bullied kids: “listened to me,” “gave me (valuable) advice” on how to handle the situation, and “checked in with me afterwards to see if the behavior stopped”.

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What the right actions and words are

Considering the above mentioned, the most valued thing is the support itself – kids need to be heard. So, before you start talking yourself, listen to your kid’s whole story and ask questions that require detailed answers: “How did it all start?”, “What did he tell you?”, “What happened then?”

Tell your kid you are on their side. They need to be sure there is a close adult person to rely on. Show your kid you understand how they feel.

Thank your child for trusting you. Sharing problems may be very difficult, since kids must talk about things that upset them. That is why they need to be sure their openness id appreciated.

Convince your kids they do not deserve such treatment. Kids that are being bullied often have a very low self-esteem and think it is their fault that somebody wants to insult them. Do not let your kid believe in the words a bully says. They need to know that the real reason is not their behavior, looks, gender, race or something else, but a bully’s wish to humiliate which cannot be an excuse.

Ask your kid how you can help them or how you can deal with the problem together. Your kid does not want to be weak and helpless in your eyes. It is of great importance to show the issue is manageable and they can also contribute to its solving.   

Tell your kid to keep a journal of their experiences. Successful fight against bullies requires all the cases to be documented. Your kid have to keep all the notes and sms from a bully. If the latter attacks on the internet, messages must be saved or screenshoted and printed out. Parents can also offer the kids to install a monitoring software on their smartphones to help them with collecting the evidence.

Give your kid useful advice on how they can behave while talking to bullies. The effective way to stop a bully is to make them experience a cognitive dissonance. You kid can discourage teasing by answering to bully’s nagging with kind compliments, or asking them for help.    

This can help to steer a serious conversation into right direction, but only you know that special words to encourage your kid and cheer them up. Just prepare yourself for the talk in advance, if you feel like not being able to put your feelings into right words at once. Remember that your support is something your child needs the most.