As parents, what can we do about bullying? Firstly, encourage strong networks of friends, supporters and services who can help your child cope through tough times such as bullying. If your child is being bullied, it’s not only distressing, but it can also have a serious impact on their mental health. We take a look at what help for bullying is available, and how to help your child build their support network and access available services.
Create a support network
When dealing with bullying it’s important to make sure that your child feels safe and confident to seek help when they need it. They may need help from more than one source, or they may just want to confide in one person. While it’s important to make sure that they’re aware of the variety of support options open to them, respect that they will choose the option that works best for them.
If you know or suspect that your child is being bullied, you are one of the key people to help them. Some things you can do:
- Talk to them and reassure them that it’s not their fault.
- Be sympathetic and a good listener, talking about it can help them feel better.
- Find out from them what’s been going on and for how long.
- Ask them how they’ve been handling it so far and ask how they are feeling.
- If the bully is from their school, suggest that you enlist the school’s help.
- Encourage them to spend time with friends that are being supportive and caring.
- Suggest counselling for support and guidance, either online or face-to-face. Many schools have school counsellors that are trained to support students in these kinds of situations.
Listen carefully to your child and get a sense of how much support you think they may need. Reassure them that they’re not alone, even if they feel like they are. Encourage them to seek the help that they think will work best for them. For example, they may be the type of person to feel more comfortable seeking advice online, or maybe you think they’d benefit from face-to-face counselling.
Your child’s friends can be an excellent bullying support system.
- Encourage and facilitate them to spend time with friends that are caring.
- Help them organise a trip to the movies or the shops, or host a sleep over or movie night at your house.
- Help your teen to focus their time and energy on the good people that they have around them.
- Remind them that friendships change over the course of a lifetime, and if a friendship turns sour or negative, it’s ok not to spend time with that person anymore.
If your child has a wide variety of friends, call on them to help during this difficult period. Spending time with the people that care about them can help balance out the tough time that they’re having.
If bullying is happening at school, there are things that the school can do to help to stop the bullying and support your child. Talk to your child about seeking help from the school. They may be reluctant, but let them know that the school can’t do anything to help unless they know about the problem.
- Encourage your child to talk to a trusted teacher about what’s been going on.
- Encourage your child to get support from the school counsellor.
- Contact the school and make an appointment to see a teacher or an administrator to discuss the bullying problem. It’s best to do this with your child’s knowledge and consent.
- Make a plan with the school on how to stop the bullying.
- Keep in regular contact with the school after the initial meeting to monitor the situation.
Most schools have a bullying policy which can often be found on the school’s website. Learn what your child’s school says they’ll do, so you know what help you and your child can expect.
Online services are a great first choice for getting help with bullying. They are immediate and can be accessed from home. Even if your child is putting on a brave face, encourage them to make use of these easily accessible support services. By opening up and talking throughout the bullying period they can help alleviate the accumulated stress that they’re experiencing.
There are excellent online resources that your child can access by themselves to get immediate support in the case of bullying. A great example is ReachOut.com, the youth version of this program, where your child can access information on bullying and peer support.
Face-to-face counselling is another good option for young people that are finding it difficult to cope with bullying. If you want to seek out face-to-face counselling for your child make an appointment with your GP who can help refer you on to a counsellor or psychologist, or you and your child could visit your local headspace centre.
Let your child know that it’s normal to feel nervous the first time that they go and see someone for help. Reassure them that it’s totally ok for them to need to talk and to get help. Consider bringing along a trusted friend as moral support.
Check out our information on getting help for ideas on where you can find face-to-face or online support for yourself and your teenager.