How to Successfully Help Your Child Recover from Being Bullied

So, your child has been bullied.

Now, what?

Although it is difficult to watch your child suffer the effects of bullying first-hand, there are some things you can do to help speed up the healing process.

This will not be easy and your child may resist. But if you follow these guidelines you will have a much higher chance of success.

Firstly, you need to remember that many children are embarrassed and afraid to confide in anyone about being bullied, never mind their parents.

That is why only 39% of high schoolers report bullying incidents to an adult. And when they do approach their parents, the bullying experience is often downplayed.

Do not do this!

This is the number one mistake that parents make.

You need to remember that, for your child, their world is crumbling. So, if you minimise the incident – they will feel like you are not hearing them.

Whatever you do, don’t use phrases like:

“I am sure they didn't mean it.”
“Every school has bullies.”
“Don’t take it personally.”

Your child needs your compassion and understanding before they can feel it's safe to open up. Your job is to build trust so that they will feel comfortable talking to you.

Then you can start the healing process.

Now that you know what not to do, what must you do?

More...

Mom Talking To Son About Bullying

Talk About the Experience

Although it is difficult at times, you need to stay calm when talking to your child.

Using positive language is key here.

Listen, engage and build trust. Replace their negative experiences with positive ones and then help them reel in their fearful thoughts and gain control of their minds again. 

Validate their feelings through empathy

Tell your child that what happened to them is not okay.

It was not their fault. Your objective is not to try and fix the problem, but to meet your child where they are at.

Using phrases like “that must have been hard” and “I can only imagine what you went through” will allow you to validate their bullying experience.

Just listen to them and be empathetic. Unpack how they are feeling and show them that you are there for them.

If they are reluctant to talk to you, try to guide the conversation.

Describe how they may be feeling or express how you would feel if the same thing had happened to you.

Be creative here – use role-playing or even reference a movie. When you start making headway, you will notice a change in their body language.

The objective of this step is to try and diffuse the situation and get a better understanding of what is burdening your child.

This is key if you want to develop their trust.

If your child feels like they are being heard and have your support, it’s more likely that they will open up to you.

Spend quality time together

This is extremely important, especially if your child is younger.

You need to replace the negative experience that they had with some positive ones as soon as possible.

Remove all distractions and focus on spending quality time together.

This could be a simple walk with the dog, a trip to the park, or experiencing something new together.

Quality time allows your child to drop their emotional defences and see that they really are an important part of your life.

Additionally, this time presents a less evasive way of asking questions around their feelings, thoughts, opinions and emotions.

Not only will they open up more to you, but you will strengthen the parent-child bond with them, which is invaluable. 

Change their thinking and reclaim control

Once you have established some trust in your relationship, it’s time to look at how your child has processed this trauma and the ways that their thought process, in general, can be improved on.

Many victims dwell on the negative effects that bullying has had on them. Your job is to help them get out of this rut as quickly as possible.

While it’s okay to acknowledge that they have been a victim of bullying. It’s not okay for them to adopt a “victim mentality”.

I.e. They get in the habit of feeling like a victim or sorry for themselves throughout their lives.

A great way to initiate this process is by using certain role models as success stories.

For younger children, focus on people they know who overcame bullying. With older children, reference a celebrity that resonates with them, such as:

  • Mila Kunis – was mocked and called “funny face”
  • Rhianna – was teased about her skin colour
  • Jessica Alba – was an awkward child with buck teeth
  • Tom Cruise – struggled with reading
  • Justin Timberlake – was bullied for his “funny hair”

Emphasise that what happened to them is not their fault. But, how they choose to react to the experience is entirely within their control.

Help them focus on things that they do have control over, such as their emotions, thoughts and actions. 

Emotions - Instead of acting impulsively, teach them to stop, assess the situation and breathe deeply until they feel calmer. Reacting to the situation with a clear head can be very empowering.

Thoughts – Explain how negativity is a vicious cycle sometimes, and that the only way to break it is by deliberating exchanging negative thoughts with positive ones.

Teach them how to focus on solutions instead of the problems, and on the people or things that bring happiness – leaving behind the stuff that makes them sad.

Actions – Explain that they can either look at what has happened to them as 'a victim', or that they use their experience to help others who are in the same position and make a difference in their lives. This shift in mindset will help the healing process.

By focusing on these aspects of their life, they will gain control over the situation.

They will shift away from feeling helpless and powerless, and start to feel more stable and secure.

Father Helping Son Improve His Strengths

Focus on Their Personal Growth

Don’t put a bullseye on your child’s back.

​Bullies often pick on kids who lack self-confidence as they are an easier target. 

Help improve your child’s self-esteem and help them recognise their strengths.

Confident children find it easier to ignore bullies. And because bullies thrive on reactions, they will move onto kids that are easier targets.

Help them recognise their strengths

Has your child ever done something extraordinary or brave?

Maybe they saved a dog from drowning or caught a fish the first time trying.

Now is the time to remind them of it!

Often when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, you can’t help but focus on all the negative aspects in your life.

Your child is no different.

By triggering the emotions from a positive experience again, you can help your child change their negative state into a positive one.

The next step is to help them rediscover their strengths.

A simple exercise can be to take a piece of paper and get them to write down 10 things that they are good at.

Not only will this help them become more aware of their strengths. It will kickstart the process of improving their own sense of self-worth – which is what we will be talking about next. 

Build their self-esteem

Bullies will pick on kids who are less likely to defend themselves, or on children who may have low self-esteem, and are more likely to be submissive than confident in a confrontation.

So, finding ways to help rebuild your child’s self-esteem is important.

There are some activities that your child can do on their own to get this process started as well as some extra practices that you (as the parent) can start doing too. 

First, your child can try:

  1. Gratitude journaling: Get your child a little notebook where they need to write down 5 things that they are grateful for. From then on, they should add 1 extra point every day. This is a powerful way to help them nurture some optimism about the different aspects of their life. 
  2. Giving compliments to others: This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s based on the “paying it forward” principle. When you do/say nice things to others you feel good about yourself and the universe pays you back.
  3. Focus on positive self-talk: Work together to create a morning mantra where your child can state 5 positive affirmations about themselves in the mirror. Self-encouragement is extremely important because it sets the pace for how we all need to look after our own mental wellbeing throughout our lives. 

A great example of an affirmation is: “I am happy, I am confident, I am loved. Although I make mistakes, I learn from them and am stronger for it.”

Now it’s your turn:

  1. Stop over-praising: Yes, it is important to acknowledge your child’s accomplishments, but do not do this when it is not deserved or insincere. Your child knows when they did not do their best so rather be honest and not fake. Also, praise their efforts and not just their results.
  2. Help foster a growth mindset: It is important to help your child realise that they have the power to rework their negative thoughts and improve their capabilities over time.

    (Here is a great bunch of downloadable exercises that you can do with your child to help foster a growth mindset.)
  3. Avoid harsh criticism: Be clear rather than critical. No child needs to hear how lazy, stupid, or useless they are. Even if they didn’t achieve what they set out do, rather work with them to set realistic goals and a plan of action to correct their actions in the future.
Children Creating Support Structure

Create Support Structures for Your Child

One of the best ways to increase your child’s self-esteem is to encourage them to make new friends, strengthen their social circles, increase support structures and get their school to become an ally.

Help them connect with their friends

Encourage your child to spend more time with their friends and making some new friends too. By strengthening their social circles, you make them less vulnerable to being bullied.

Make sure your child has a friend with them as much as possible. Bullies prefer picking on children when they are alone – there is strength in numbers!

Next, it’s a good idea to get their friends' parents involved. 

When more families are creating support structures for their kids and are educating them on the best ways to deal with bullies. It allows the kids to feel more confident to stand up for each other and prevent anyone from being bullied.

In our Free Bully Awareness Course, we talk about creating support structures through the use of “buddy systems”. If you have not started the course. Click here now.

What happens if your child struggles to make friends?

If your child struggles to make friends, the first thing to do is to identify their passions or hobbies.

Through this it will be easier to find extramural activities that they may enjoy. Especially since it will give them the opportunity to meet like-minded kids with similar interests.

It also means that as they develop skills and competencies that their friends, family and peers notice – they will automatically feel more confident in their abilities.

By providing them with a safe environment to develop and explore these potential talents, you will help your child experience positive relationships with other kids.

Martial arts and self-defence are often very effective in building self-confidence.

We are definitely not promoting violence, but appreciate that most martial arts focus on self-defence, self-control and focus. These are all qualities that we want to encourage your child to develop.

Other benefits of martial arts include:

  • Keeping your child healthy and fit;
  • Improving reflexes and reactions;
  • Teaching your child how to be calm and how to deal with confrontation; and
  • Building self-confidence and lowering insecurities.

Speak to the school or day care

The best thing you can do before approaching the school is to remain calm and be prepared.

Work with your child and get all the facts. Be specific with this and pay attention to detail.

Most schools have anti-bullying policies on their website – study them. If they do not, you could also make an anonymous call to ask them what the bullying policies are.

Keep a record of everything: texts, emails, images etc. These can all be used when you confront the school.

If your child has a favourite teacher or if you personally know any teachers or staff working at the school, ask them to help with the situation.

These allies can help you understand how your child fits in with the school dynamic.

Be respectful and set up a formal meeting. Do not barge in and demand to see the principal. This will only heighten the situation and put the school and teacher on the defensive.

Always assume that the school is unaware.

Don’t be that angry parent blaming the school and teachers for not intervening. Often bullies act covertly,  making teachers oblivious to their actions.

In the meeting, ask leading questions around policies, enforcement and similar incidents.

It is important to understand whether or not the teacher has any knowledge of the matter so that they can assist. If they don’t, it’s time to escalate the issue to the principal.

Don’t make threats or demands. Rather explain the situation and ask for solutions. Remember to be specific and provide details.

Ask the teacher about the next steps to be taken and set reasonable, expected outcomes together with the school. And always end the meeting with dates for a follow-up.

Remember to write down everything that is said and agreed to.

After all of this, if you are still not happy with how the teacher has handled the incident, you can write a letter of complaint to the principal. However, if you are already dealing with the principal it may be time to get the school’s governing body involved.

Remember, in serious circumstances, especially anything involving life-threatening physical bullying or any form of sexual assault, call the police immediately as these are criminal offences. You can confront the school once the matter is escalated.

Mother Helping Child Recover From Bullying

Final Thoughts

Helping your child overcome bullying is tough. But remember, your job is to help them move on from what has happened to them.

It is essential that you help your child find closure and make peace with their past traumas at a comfortable pace. To get things started, the most important thing to do is to replace their past negative experiences with positive new ones.

Help them rediscover their passions and strengths.

Be the catalyst in helping your child shine.

Encourage them to make more friends and build support structures so that they have allies in their corners.

Don’t let their sense of self-worth be invalidated by a negative experience. Remind them that what happened was not their fault, but that they have the power to rise above it.

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