My child told me they’re being bullied. What do I do?

By Dan Donahoo, Senior Advisor

November 26th, 2019

It’s important your first reaction is care and love for your child. You may feel anger, or fear, or want to blame someone. But it’s significant that your child has told you this and your focus should be on them and their experience.

Tell them: Thank you for telling me. I am sorry this is happening.

You can reassure them by saying, “This isn’t something people can solve by themselves. We will solve it together.”

Let your child know that it will be OK, but that you will need to have some time to think about what the next steps are. This mean that you don’t take away their phone, even if it involves cyber bullying. They are not to blame for being bullied and taking their phone away is punishing them for something they haven’t done.

Giving yourself time to think, to calm down and react in a way that is reasonable and clearly focused on positive outcomes for your child is important.

It is also important to communicate your plan of action to your child. Depending on how old they are and your interpretation of the situation, they may be involved in making a decision about what action to take, or they may not. What is important is they don’t feel disempowered or that your actions make them feel more concern or fear. If they don’t want you to talk to the school, for example, you need to reassure them that you will talk to the school and teachers in confidence, that they are well trained and have ways to best help solve the problem.

You can also help your child take actions that involve planning how to reduce the impact or access of the bullying behaviour. Do you need a new routine for getting to school? Can you help your child block phone numbers or social media followers? Do they delete or take a break from some social media for some time? These are things you can suggest and work through with your child, rather than just demanding they happen.

If you start dictating what your child should or should not do, that does not help them feel empowered, safe or secure.

It’s important that, no matter how you are feeling, you don’t blame others for the situation. You will likely be angry and feel the school or others have let you and your child down. Don’t create tension or have an argument with those best placed to help your child. You should approach the school, or anyone else involved calmly and with the key focus on helping to make sure your child is not bullied and feels safe and secure again.

It is also advisable not to approach other parents, but to allow this activity to take place through a third party.

Listen to the advice of your school or other professionals and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Schools deal with these issues more often than you know and can help guide your child and you to solve the issue and ensue the best results for your child.