We all know bullying is an awful, hurtful, and destructive thing, but it exists in every classroom, in every school, all over the world. The question is why?
When people don’t know how to channel their sadness or frustration in a positive way, it comes out in anger, and can often be channeled towards one person who has done nothing to deserve it other than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the bully, it’s about feeling like they have power because, in so many aspects of their life, they feel powerless.
Remember this: Hurt People Hurt People.
So as an adult in a teen’s life, we are often left heartbroken to see our teens going through such a tough time. Sometimes, we just have to be the safe space for our teens. Be the shoulder to cry on and be there to help them advocate for themselves.
Over the years, we have heard countless stories and experiences of bullying in schools. So we’ve been able to put together some ways you can support a teen who is experiencing bullying.
Number One: Encourage Them To Speak Up
They might be afraid to tell anyone, thinking that it will cause a big scene, and make everything ten times worse. They might also be embarrassed about being bullied and not want others to know. Reassure your teen that you are someone they can trust and that you are there to support them through this difficult time. If they’ve been holding the secret for a while, it will instantly make them feel better. Ask them to share the whole story, and work with your teen to figure out the right solution.
Number Two: Reassure Them That This Is Not Their Fault
Start off by explaining that they don’t deserve to be bullied, nobody does, and it probably isn’t based on anything they’ve said or done. Encourage them to stop second-guessing themselves, wondering if there was anything they could have said, done or worn differently. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference. Next, we break down the reason people bully. Ask your teen to remember a time when they may have felt frustrated, angry, sad, insecure or powerless. It’s been proven that when we don’t know how to deal with those feelings in a positive way, we can feel anger or resentment towards those who seem happy. That’s why bullies bully. They want to bring others down to their level. A hugely important point to get across is to remind your teen to never change anything about themselves in an attempt to please a bully. They are amazing as they are and should never have to dim their sparkle.
Number Three: We All Want People To Like Us
Of course, we do. But a little reminder that we live in a world where no two people are the same, and millions of different personalities have to coexist. Sometimes those personalities work well together, and sometimes they don’t gel. We don’t all need to be best friends, but we need to respect each other. Trying to be liked by everyone is exhausting. It’s okay to let it go.
Number Four: They’re Not The Only One
There’s an old war tactic called ‘Divide and Conquer’. It involves making your enemies feel alone, so they don’t all form an alliance and stand up to you. Ask your teen to take a second and look around. Chances are they’ll see that there are others who feel exactly like they do. These are their allies. Viva la revolution!
Number Five: A Reminder That When The Bullies Go Low, We Go High
A gentle reminder to your teen to take the high road, always, will go a long way. When they sink to the same level of behaviour, it only makes them feel worse, because they know better than that.
Number Six: Don’t Let Your Teen Feel Insecure Because Of The Bully
Bullies will make many different comments until they find one that gets the reaction they’re looking for. They’ll say you’re too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too loud, and too quiet. They’ll pick a feature of a person’s personality or body, making it appear negative. If your teen buys into what they say, those insecurities will stay with them for a long time. Reassure your teen that they are beautiful and amazing.
Number Seven: Remind Your Teen That The Bully Is Not In A Good Place
If we could see into a bully’s world, we probably wouldn’t exchange lives with them. They are trying to hold on to some form of control or power, to divert them from the things that make them so unhappy. This doesn’t excuse any bad behaviour, but it might help us to realise that they are probably struggling.
Number Eight: It Will Pass
It’s hard to see that now, but at some stage, they will move on. Bullies always do. And when that happens, encourage your teen to not be afraid to make new friends, try new things, or chase their goals. This experience has taken enough from them.
If you’d like a little more support, check out Allison Keating’s SHINE Festival 2022 video – A Real Chat About Bullying. In this chat, Allison gives practical advice for anyone experiencing bullying and what those who witness it can do to help!
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