Children who experienced or witnessed bullying may want to discuss it with their parents, but not know how to bring it up. Some children may be afraid that they’ll be “in trouble” for what happened. Others may feel embarrassment or shame. A parent may notice changes in their child’s behavior and find it difficult to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make their child feel uncomfortable.
Start Talking About Bullying Now
Don’t wait for bullying to happen before you talk about it. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report, 22% of U.S. students aged 12-18 reported being bullied at school in 2019. Children can be afraid to talk about bullying with their family. Parents create trust with children by initiating open, honest discussions. These dialogues provide opportunities to communicate values and learn about your child’s experience. They make it easier for your children to turn to you if they witness or experience bullying.
Have Thoughtful Talks with Your Child Every Day
Initiate talks in the car, before or after homework, over dinner or breakfast, or when doing something together. Keep it casual and curious. Talk about the daily schedule. Listen. Show that you trust them. Ask open ended questions about their day or activities.
- What’s the funniest thing that happened today?
- What was the best and worst thing that happened to you today?
- What new thing did you learn about a friend or another student this week?
- What would you change about today?
Use your experiences to help them talk about theirs...
For instance, share an age-appropriate story about bullying you experienced or witnessed. Talk about how it was distressing, awkward, scary, upsetting, or left you with questions. Start with, “Hey, did I tell you about…?”
Talk about it in a general way
Bring up the subject of bullying as if it were a news item or a subject you want to learn more about.
- I’ve been hearing about cyberbullying a lot lately. Have you ever seen it? How did they handle it? What would you have done?
- Some of my friends were talking about bullying happening at their child’s school. Do you ever see any bullying happening? How did the school deal with it? What did you think of that?
If your child witnessed bullying
Validate their feelings. Listen without judgement. Ask them some questions to get a feel for what they may need. Learn more about how bystanders can stop or respond to bullying.
- What was it like for you to witness that?
- Do you think the child who was bullied is ok?
- Did you want to do anything in that situation?
- How did other kids react?
- Do you want to talk about different ways you can handle it if it happens again?
- Is there anything you’d like me to do?
If your child isn't sure what they witnessed was bullying
Ask open-ended questions to get more information about what happened, so you can help them learn how to identify bullying.
- Where did this happen?
- What was going on right before this happened?
- How did the child being bullied react? Were they hurt or upset? (Bullying and teasing are different. If someone was upset by it, then it is likely bullying. Watch this video on the difference between bullying and teasing.)
- Does the person who did it act this way with other people?
- Do they normally get along or what is their general relationship to each other?
- How did the others who were there react when it happened?
- How would you have felt if it had happened to you?
- Do you think this incident was meant to make someone look bad? (If yes, it was probably bullying.)
- Do you think the person doing it wanted to purposely exclude or humiliate the other person? (If yes, it was probably bullying.)
If you are concerned your child may have been bullied or cyberbullied, but they are not talking about it
Start the conversation in a general way. Let them know you are there for them no matter what.
- I’ve noticed that you seem stressed/anxious/upset – has anything happened?
- I’ve noticed that you’re spending more time alone/on your phone/in your room – is there anything you want to talk about?
- Is there something going on at school that might be upsetting you?
- I’ve noticed that you don’t talk about your friend(s) anymore. Has anything happened?
- I’m here if there’s something you want to talk about.
If your child was bullied or cyberbullied
Stay calm. Ask them questions as the goal is to hear about their experience, provide support, and to help prevent it from happening again. Determine if you need to talk to the school about it. Try to understand if there is a power imbalance between the one who bullied and the one who was bullied. A power imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. Learn more about what to do when your child has been cyberbullied.
- Is there history between you? Have there been past conflicts?
- Has this happened before? Are you worried it will happen again?
- What will make you feel safer?
- This isn’t your fault. No one deserves to be bullied no matter what was said or done.
- Can I reach out to the school/teacher to talk to them about it?
- Can we come up with some things you can do if it happens again?
If your child bullied someone
Stay calm. Be open and listen. Ask questions. The goal is to help them learn from this and work through the reasons they did it so you can help them find other, healthy ways to deal with their feelings or situations that come up. You will also need to work with the school or parents to deal with it. Bullying is a behavior that can be changed. Your child will need help and support to learn new behaviors.
- What was going on for you when you did this?
- What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
- How do you feel about it now?
- How do you think the child you bullied felt?
- Looking back, are there other ways you could’ve handled this?
- Here are some other ways you could’ve handled it…
- Is this the first time you did this?
- Bullying is not ok. It’s important that we address this. If you were the one who had been bullied, what would you want to happen to make things better?
- I’ll help you deal with this to make things right.
- Thank you for talking to me about this. What I’ve learned is that you could use some help with… I will work on helping you/getting you help.
Article from https://www.stopbullying.gov/r..., 10/2022