How to deal with bullies (advice for adults & kids)

In this podcast (episode #507) and blog, I talk about an incredibly important subject: bullying, and what we can do as parents, educators and caregivers to help our children.  

Bullying is harmful on a physical, mental, and emotional level, and requires much more advocacy and intervention than other social situations. According to recent statistics, “globally, one in three children have been bullied in the past 30 days.” Young children exposed to bullying can suffer educational, social, and health consequences, which often last well into adulthood. 

The trauma caused by bullying closely connects to how a child identifies with themselves and others, how they form or make relationships, and how they learn to trust or mistrust people. It is also, unfortunately, something that many children experience or participate in. It can be damaging to their well-being in the short and long term, and in both cases, it should never be ignored or suppressed. 

This includes bullying experienced online. Since the advent of social media, cyberbullying has become a major issue for children; now bullying goes home with them, on their phones, devices or computers. Parents or caregivers of children who are bullied online are often not aware of everything that is going on, and even if they are, it can be hard to intervene. 

Here are some of the signals to look out for if your child is being bullied: 

  • Their behavior suddenly changes; for example, they are quieter, more withdrawn, cry more, feel depressed, have less interest in things they used to love doing, and so on. 
  • They are less open with you and don’t want to talk about their day/school/other things.
  • They come home from school with damaged clothing/books or unexplained injuries.
  • They are now afraid to go places they used to love (like school or a friend’s house).
  • They suddenly have a lot of stomach aches, headaches, or complaints about feeling sick more often.
  • They battle to fall asleep and have more nightmares. 

When it comes to bullying, one of the best things we can do it being preventative and proactive. Some great ways to do this are: 

  1. As your child is starting school, let them know that sometimes other children can be mean, and they might not always be friends with all the children that go to their school. Let them know that if anyone hurts them, they can tell their teachers and you, and you will be there to help them. Explain to them, in a way they understand, what bullying can look like and what your child can do if they are ever bullied. 
  2. Explain to your children (in age appropriate ways) that bullying can happen online as well, show them what this looks like, and demonstrate how they can be safe online.
  3. Create an environment that lets your child know that they can share things with you, since children are often too afraid to share that they have been bullied. 
  4. Encourage your child to be open with you by letting them know that you will always support them through everything. You can even practice scenarios with them to help them understand what bullying can look like and how they can deal with bullying. For example, you can say, “If someone says this to you, what are different things that you could say or do in response?” 

It is also important to remember that bullying is more than just an individual problem. Bullying prevention is a community effort and will require parents, educators, and others to work together holistically. It really does take a village—parents, teachers, therapists, psychologists, physicians, school administrators, school counselors—to make an impactful change! Think of ways you as a parent, educator or caregiver can get involved in your community to raise awareness about bullying and help prevent it.  

Indeed, bullying is not just a “school thing.” There is a strong link between children who are bullied in school and those who are also bullied at home by their siblings. Part of what a parent can do at home is to begin using open communication and mind management techniques like the Neurocycle with the whole family, not just the child being bullied, to help mitigate and prevent negative social habits from taking root, which have the potential to spill out in how a child acts at school. For more on this, check out my podcasts, and my latest book, How to Help Your Child Clean Up Their Mental Mess.  

If your child is experiencing bullying at school or at home, here are some other ways you can help them manage how they feel and the impact the bullying has on their health and wellbeing: 

    1. Help your child build up their confidence by encouraging them often and letting them know that you are there to support and love them through this challenging time.
    2. Teach your child ways they can manage their stress and anxiety in the moment, such as breathing techniques, affirmations, child therapy, or mind management techniques like the Neurocycle (For more on this, check out my podcasts, and my latest book, How to Help Your Child Clean Up Their Mental Mess).
    3. Help your child manage the negative mental effects that bullying can have on them. Give them the space and time to talk about how they feel and work through this, even though it can be a hard and challenging process. The Neurocycle is a great tool to use to help your child manage their feelings, thoughts and behaviors when they have been bullied.
    4. Encourage your child to participate in sports and other activities so that they have a chance to make more friends that will support and care for them.
    5. Let your child know that the bully is acting the way they are because they are also struggling, and that bullying usually says more about the bully than the victim. 
    6. Remind your child that how they are showing up is not who they are, but what they are doing to cope with the trauma they are experiencing. Let them know that they are amazing—emphasize their qualities so that they can starting building up their self-esteem.  

For more on bullying and mental health, listen to my podcast (episode #507). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).         

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Podcast Highlights 

0:29 Bullying is a global issue 

1:00 How bullying affects children mentally & physically  

2:00 Some signs your child is being bullied 

2:35 Bullying doesn’t just happen at school 

3:10, 6:22 Ways we can be proactive & preventive against bullying 

8:13 Preventing & stopping bullying requires community effort  

13:25 How to help your child deal with the trauma of being bullied 

16:55 How we can combat bullying at home, at school & in our communities 

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional. 

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