By Afra Dufrance, ReachOut Parents Coach
Parents come to coaching looking for positive outcomes for their teen, no matter the issue they’re facing. A common concern among the parents I talk to through the coaching service is cyberbullying.
Parents may be concerned that they don’t really understand cyberbullying, or that they don’t have the skills to manage it. If you have these concerns, you’re not alone. There are lots of parents out there struggling with the issue of cyberbullying, and coaching is here to help!
We want parents to know that, if their child is being cyberbullied, there are steps they can take to help their teen take control of the situation.
Some signs parents can look out for with their teenager include:
- They are upset after using their phone or computer.
- They’re being secretive about their online activity.
- They’ve become more withdrawn, sad, angry or hostile.
- Their friendship groups have changed.
- Their schoolwork has declined, and they may even be refusing to go to school.
- They’re generally disinterested in things.
- Their sleeping patterns have changed.
The example below illustrates how we can support parents who have these concerns.
We had a mum, let’s call her Anna, who came to the coaching service concerned that her daughter Celia was being cyberbullied. Anna saw Celia investing a lot of time online. But every time she would spend time online she’d become irritable and sad. Eventually, Celia started withdrawing from her offline activities, spending more and more time dwelling online, trying to connect with her supposed ‘friends’. Anna was a little confused and unsure how to deal with an issue that was happening on platforms she didn’t have access to.
In our first session, we started by chatting about Anna’s main goal. Ultimately, she was worried about her daughter’s self-esteem and wanted her to spend less time in a space that seemed to be harming her. We encouraged Anna to focus on the parts she did have some control over, not the parts she couldn’t change. So, rather than trying to deal with the peers that were excluding Celia, Anna started to encourage her to focus on activities away from social media and that particular friendship group.
Over time, Celia re-engaged with a sport she had previously loved. She found she was enjoying herself and began to build a few new friendships as well. With Celia becoming less focused on the peers who were excluding her, her self-esteem and resilience improved. We also worked with Anna to come up with a support plan to keep her daughter safe if cyberbullying became an issue again.
A key takeaway here is that Anna didn’t ban her daughter from being online, which many parents might have done. Instead, she helped Celia take a pause and step away, redirecting her energy into things that would have a positive impact on her wellbeing.
Here are some other things we spoke to Anna about while supporting her to come up with a plan for her and her daughter.
- Try to stay calm. Teenagers are more likely to open up if they know you can handle the info. Check in with yourself and don’t be afraid to take a break mid-conversation if you need it.
- Involve your teenager. Being involved in finding the solution to their problem is a surefire way to get your teen feeling empowered to make a change.
- Have a clear goal. This might be something like: ‘to improve my child’s safety, self-esteem and coping skills’.
- Your teenager’s brain is still developing. They’re learning from their experiences and will need different levels of support at different times. We can help you figure out where they’re at and when you should lean in and offer a hand.
- Make time for regular chats with your teenager. Perhaps it’s a debrief at the end of each school day, or a run-down of the week over dinner on Sunday night. This will show your teenager they’re important to you and will make it easier for them to bring up the tricky stuff when it happens.
- Get support for yourself. You might be feeling worried, hurt or frustrated by your child’s online activity. We can support you to manage these feelings so that you’re even more capable of helping your teenager.
Your situation probably isn’t exactly the same as Anna’s. But luckily, coaching works in every context. We help parents to create strategies and solutions so that, together with their family, they can face whatever life throws at them. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution with coaching. Every parent gets a tailored experience that’s right for their family.