Bullying has become more and more common these days. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 20 percent of students in the U.S. ages 12-18 experience bullying in schools. That statistic is even higher for younger children of elementary age, as 33 percent of elementary kids are bullied at schools.
Being bullied can happen anywhere and anytime—whether in the classroom, playground, online, or neighborhood. Three types of bullying to be aware of are verbal bullying, cyberbullying, and physical bullying. Keep in mind, however, that a bully is only as powerful as they are allowed to be. In the story of David and Goliath, David is a classic example of the weak overcoming the strong. For parents whose children are being bullied, there are seven ways they can empower their child.
1. Know the signs and symptoms.
Many kids will never tell their parents they are being bullied, so parents need to know what to look for. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Unexplained injuries
- Dropping grades
- Not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends
- Changes in mood
- Feelings of hopelessness
2. Be a safe person.
A child who is bullied feels their power, voice, and self-worth have been taken away. Therefore, a parent needs to be a safe person they can turn to. “How you defend your child is to listen to them, hear their heart, and open up your heart to be a powerful container for their pain.”—Dr. Sheri Keffer.
3. Show empathy.
One of the best ways for a parent to help their child is for them to empathize with what they are feeling and experiencing. Saying things like: “This is not your fault,” “You can tell me anything,” and “I am always here for you” can go a long way to helping a child feel heard.
4. Talk to the school.
If bullying occurs at school, talk to the principal, teacher(s), and school administrators. Keep a record of every incident. If the bullying continues, take it to the next level, such as the school board or superintendent. Steve Arterburn says, “Empower your child, but let them know you’ve talked to the principal and expect them to make the school a better place.”
5. Don’t retaliate.
As tempting as it may be to retaliate against a bully, a parent should never encourage a child to retaliate—nor should a parent try to get even with a bully or their family themselves. No matter how much a child has been bullied, it’s never an excuse to seek revenge. One thing a parent might consider, however, is having their child attend a self-defense class so that they can learn to protect themselves if they are physically attacked.
6. Help your child gain confidence.
Equipping a child with self-esteem is a core component of preventing bullying. Kids who lack confidence can appear weak and easy to target, making them more likely to become victims of bullying. Here are some strategies to help a child or teen gain confidence:
- Walk with good posture
- Make eye contact
- Smile at others
- Talk in a calm, but firm, voice to the bully
- Meditate on Bible verses that affirm their worth
7. Have your child see a counselor.
Find a counselor in the New Life Counseling Network who works with children and can equip them with the tools they need to overcome. Chris Williams states, “It starts with safety. Look into having your child see a therapist—they need a safe place to offload everything overwhelming them.”
If your child or teen is being bullied, please know we are here for you and your child. Call us at 800-NEW-LIFE. We can connect you to a counselor who can help you and your child.
by Kimberlee Bousman