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For Families

Bullying: What to Do If Your Child is Being Bullied

Hannah Larson

Licensed Professional Counselor

Last modified 13 May 2024

Published 22 Feb 2024

Guest post from Kimberly Young, M.S., author of From Bullied to Brave

It is harrowing to find out that your child is being bullied at school or in other social situations. 

What You Can Do As a Parent If Your Child Is Being Bullied

Here are some steps to protect your child, help them heal, and address the bullying.

Recognize the warning signs of bullying

  • Your child has a sudden behavioral change
  • Your child is fine on weekends and on school breaks. You notice after a break, your child complains of physical complaints like headaches and stomachaches 
  • Your child is sharing they are afraid of another student at school 
  • Your child is going to great lengths to avoid another student 
  • Your child is reluctant to attend school 
  • Your child comes home with unexplained bruises and torn clothing 

Bullying vs conflict: What is the difference

Bullying is repeated targeted behavior towards another with the intent to harm. 

Peer conflict is a disagreement between students. Peer conflict is often mistaken for bullying. Peer conflict can become mean and unkind. This is not bullying. Your child will likely need your help and support in handling conflict with other students. With peer conflict, you can teach your child assertiveness and boundary skills. 

When a student is mean to another child in a targeted way, they are bullying them. 

A child is bullying when they intentionally cause harm to another child, including on social media. These attacks can look like they are making threats, intimidating, continually embarrassing them, encouraging other children to exclude them, or otherwise using excessive peer pressure to hurt another child.

Take your child’s pleas for help seriously

Your child may not share what is happening to them due to feeling helpless, ashamed, or fearing backlash. 

When your child shares that someone is calling them names, picking on them, that they are afraid to go to school, and the like, stop to listen. 

Listen calmly and encourage open and safe communication

It can be scary to hear your child is experiencing something unpleasant; you may feel mad or want to jump to action immediately. If you can, stop and listen before going into problem-solving mode.

 Your child may want you to intervene, and they may want you to just listen. 

Once your child has finished sharing their experience, ask them if they were just sharing or would like help. 

Your child will experience mean and rude kids and have conflicts. Bullying is repeated and targeted behavior by someone who has power. 

No matter the experience, your child will need you to listen and know you will be there to help. 

Your child may need some conflict resolution or boundary skills. If your child’s safety is at risk, you may need to get school staff involved at your child’s school. 

Let your child know that you will come up with ideas and plans to work through it together.

Reassure your child that they did nothing to deserve to be bullied

Thank your child for coming to you. Let your child know they are not alone, and you are there to listen. Let your child know they are only responsible for their behavior and not the behavior of others. 

If needed, seek professional help from a mental health professional for your child

It may help your child to work with a counselor to heal from their experience. With a therapist, your child can work through negative feelings and thought distortions they may be experiencing as a result of the abuse.

In therapy, your child can brainstorm ideas for creating new friendships, sort through their feelings and experiences, and learn assertiveness and resilience skills. 

How to Report Bullying

Here is information about how to report bullying, including who to contact at your child’s school, what records to keep, and what to do if the bullying is occurring online. 

Report the bullying to the principal of your child’s school, teachers, and the school counselor

If your child is experiencing targeted bullying behavior, report this to your child’s school as soon as possible. 

It is hard for a school to take action on something they do not know is a problem. Your child’s school will most likely do an investigation. 

During the investigation, your child’s school administrators may interview witnesses and the alleged bully. 

Due to privacy laws, you may not be privy to a school’s action towards another student. Bullying is repeated targeted behavior towards a student. If a new incident occurs, call or email your child’s school. 

Depending on the severity, it can also help to report harassment or unwanted aggressive behavior. 

Most states have laws and policies requiring districts and schools to implement anti-bullying policies and procedures that include investigating and responding to bullying when it occurs. You can look up your state’s policy and laws at https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/laws

Keep a record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, locations, and individuals involved

Hopefully, the behavior will stop when you report to your child’s school that your child is being bullied. If it does not stop, keep a record of what is happening. 

You want to record where it is happening, when, what happened, who it involved, and any witnesses.

Some schools have cameras in different locations and may be able to pull up the events. 

When you make a report, record who you talked to and the outcome of your report. 

How to report cyberbullying

In the 21st century, cyberbullying is one of the most common forms of bullying that affects upper elementary, middle, and high school students. Depending on your state, your child’s school may be required by law to address cyberbullying, even if it occurred outside school hours or on non-school equipment when the behavior affects your child’s school life. 

When reporting cyberbullying to your child’s school, screen record videos of the events and save and print screenshots and text messages. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances of cyberbullying. 

Let your child know not to respond to the person who is cyberbullying. The person who is engaging in cyberbullying is often looking for a strong reaction from the victim and will keep going to get a response. 

It may help to block and report the person who is cyberbullying to the social media platform where it occurred. 

Thank your child for coming to you and trusting you. You may feel the urge to take your child’s phone away or block your child from using any social media. If your child was not a part of the cyberbullying, don’t take away electronic privileges based on what they shared with you. If you accidentally punish your child for coming to you with a concern, they will be less likely to come to you in the future.  

Reporting anonymously

In many states, you can report bullying anonymously. If your child is worried about reporting the bullying themselves, together, you can try an anonymous reporting platform.

Each state has a different platform for making anonymous reports. For example, in Colorado, the site is called Safe 2 Tell

Check your child’s school district website to see if such a reporting platform exists. If the bullying does not stop, you may need to make a non-anonymous report. 

7 Tips for Helping Your Child If They’re Being Bullied

1. Encourage your child to find new friends through scouting, church, or other groups. Help them find outside interests such as drama, band, sports, art, and the like. 

2. Ask your child if they have friends at school who will stick up for each other when they’re being bullied. Research shows that bullying ends in ten seconds more than half of the time when an upstander steps in and tells the bully to stop.

3. Use an authoritative approach to parenting. Authoritative parenting is parenting with a high degree of warmth, love, connection, and healthy boundaries. When kids grow up in an environment where they are listened to and heard, they fare better in the face of adversity and challenge. 

4. Instill a sense of resilience in your child, emphasizing their strengths and abilities. Focus on praising and encouraging effort, practice, and trying again instead of a perfect final result. 

5. Teach them coping mechanisms to deal with negative experiences and build self-confidence. Stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness can also be helpful.

6. Let your child know about the Stomp Out Bullying Live Help Chat Crisis Line. STOMP is a crisis line open to youth 13-24 years of age experiencing bullying. The crisis line is available Tuesday evenings from 7 pm-11 pm EST and Friday from 9 pm-1 am EST.

7. Read From Bullied to Brave with your child. In this story, your child will learn about a character experiencing bullying and what they did to thrive. 

By combining these strategies, you can effectively address bullying situations, support your child, and contribute to creating a safer environment at home and school.

Kimberly Young, M.S.

Author of From Bullied to Brave

FromBulliedtoBrave.com

Resources

Cadey

American Academy of Pediatrics

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Bullying-Its-Not-Ok.aspx

American Psychological Association

https://www.apa.org/print-this?url=https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience/guide-parents-teachers

Child Mind Institute

https://childmind.org/article/how-to-know-if-your-child-is-being-bullied/

National Bullying Prevention Center

https://www.stopbullying.gov/

National Cybersecurity Alliance 

https://staysafeonline.org/resources/cyberbullying-parents/

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center

https://www.pacer.org/bullying/