How parents, caregivers and guardians can address bullying

Bullying is an important topic that is often seen in school settings, but what interactions can be considered bullying? And how do we, as parents, caregivers, and guardians, deal with it? Bullying is defined as the deliberate and ongoing misuse of power in interactions through repeated verbal, physical, social, or online behavior that is intended to cause harm. While a single negative interaction is not considered bullying, it can still be painful and require help from a professional or personal resource. Repeated interactions from bully to victim, however, truly requires intervention, processing and attention from all aspects of a child’s world.

“The first step when dealing with a bullied child is to believe them, not fix them,” St. Petersburg child therapist Juli Hindsley shares. “It is common to have a big, emotional reaction to a child’s disclosure that they are being bullied, but it is not helpful. Try to stay calm and present, and immediately let them know that they are safe and did the right thing by talking to you.”

Hindsley suggests asking specific questions about your child’s experience, including where the acts occurred, how long it’s been taking place, whether it was online or in person, if any other adults know, and if the person doing the bully could be considered dangerous. For children who are older, it may be helpful to ask what they would like the next steps to be now that they have notified you. The child therapist recommends asking whether or not they want you to speak to a teacher or counselor at school, if they would like to speak to a therapist, and what safety measures, in person or online, should be considered while the situation is figured out.

“Collaborate and listen,” Hindsley adds. “Having a child share this sensitive information is important, so try not to jump to conclusions or actions, which could affect the safe space you’ve created with them.”

The St. Petersburg child therapist acknowledges that rebuilding self confidence is often the hardest part for a child. Daily affirmation work can be an easy and effective strategy to begin the process, but many children also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to learn coping skills and increase self-esteem.

For additional resources and St. Petersburg children’s counseling services, visit Child & Family Therapy Center’s contact page.

When your child is being bullied