Maybe you’ve noticed some changes in your child’s behaviour – a once bubbly primary schooler forever enthusiastic about school and learning is in frequent tears and now complains of a sore tummy before school.  Or maybe your previously happy-go-lucky teenager refuses to talk about what is bothering them, returning from school with a broken pencil case and a mysterious bruise on their upper arm.    

According to the National Centre Against Bullying – the definition of bullying ”is when an individual or a group of people with more power, repeatedly and intentionally cause hurt or harm to another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond.”  

It is a terrible truth that many of us as parents and caregivers are not only faced with the daunting task of how to deal with bullying within schools, but may very well be experiencing (or witnessing) it in the workplace.  There are some estimates that suggest that up to 70% of young people have experienced bullying at some point.  And although it is important to note that this figure includes being witness to bullying or being the actual “perpetrator” it’s no surprise to me that so many of my clients have held onto these experiences well into their adult lives.  

Some ways in which bullying can be experienced can include verbally, physically and mentally.  

  • Verbal bullying includes name calling, possibly gossiping about another person and/or threatening and making fun of others. 
  • Physical bullying involves hitting, punching, tripping, pushing and/or damaging a person’s property.
  • Mental bullying involves exclusion, rumour spreading, cyber bullying and often ignoring a person. 

As parents it is often really difficult to protect our children when they are outside of our care.  Helping to build their resilience and self-esteem is so important in helping to put a stop to bullying.  This can work both ways – for the perpetrator and the victim of the bullying.  A person with good coping mechanisms and healthy self esteem is less likely to look for a punching bag.  The same can apply to the “victim” in these situations – when you are grounded and sure of your self-worth you are probably a less likely target for those people looking for someone to pick on.  

“Building resilience in children is not about making them tough.  Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties and mange how you feel.” www.easypeasykids.com.au 

Help kids feel accepted at home – kids who feel you believe in them and genuinely like who they are find the issues with bullying to be less debilitating because of the acceptance they already feel.  

Nurture a healthy self-esteem – when children see value in what they have to offer to the world, they see themselves in a positive light which is especially important during difficult times.  This can determine how they bounce back as they can see the bullying for what it is – not a reflection of who they are, but rather a reflection the choices made by the bullies. 

Encourage positive thinking – this is not to say that we should ignore negative thoughts and feelings.  But learning to find pleasure and humour is important.  Providing  opportunities for children to relax and have fun with nothing scheduled can help them find joy even in the little things.

Teach children how to manage their emotions – it is important for children to learn how to calm themselves when they are feeling aggressive and angry.  Help them learn to recognise and name their feelings and reactions.  Explore ideas on how to then manage those feelings for the more positive outcome.

Promote and develop problem solving skills – show children how to be flexible in there responses to something negative.  When your child faces a problem, you can brainstorm possible solutions together.  Talk out the pros and cons of the different options and practice role playing if necessary.  Allow them to choose the best course of action.  Show them that you trust their decisions so that they can learn to problem solve without the fear of “messing up”.  

Focus on a “bright” future – part of ensuring our kids stay positive and overcome difficulties is to future pace.  Guide them in visualising a future beyond their current situation.  Ask them to think about what they do want and how they can begin to implement this desired outcome. 

Challenge their critical inner voice – it is very important that you challenge this type of critical thinking.  Don’t allow this negative self talk to become a way of life.  

Encourage children to try something new and different – this can be good for children to accept challenges and to try new things.  Find balance between leaving them to figure it out alone and overprotecting them.  Overprotecting them  an leave them feeling dependent and helpless. 

Address problems immediately – don’t ever pretend to not notice a problem.  Ignoring the fact that your child is struggling with bullies will not encourage your child to toughen up and can leave them feeling alone and very isolated!  If your child has an issue address it right away with the relevant authorities. 

Discourage avoidant behaviours – encourage your child to talk about painful events.  Making sense out of talking about those experiences is a healthy way to deal with things.  Avoiding the issue can result in behaviour problems, anxiety, stress and fear.  

Learn to reframe negative experiences – this is so helpful in helping your child to keep things in perspective.  When experiencing a significant challenge, reframe the situation so they can learn from it.  Although this exercise is not about avoiding their pain, it is helpful to remember to not overly dwell on the negative and engage in victim energy.  Instead you can encourage them to try to discover what they can learn from the situation and how to best overcome bullying. 

Look for self-discovery opportunities – faced with less than desirable situation can be a great time for children to learn something about who they are.  For example, your child may find that they have a lot of self-control or that situations are easier to navigate when they ask for help.  

And lastly – be a good role model.  If you demonstrate thT you can handle difficult situations and bounce back, your kids will learn by your example.  If you do struggle with any of these things you may want to focus on changing these behaviours in your own life first – and then focus on helping your child! 

Kim is a kinesiologist on Sydney’s Northern Beaches who passionately works with her clients on a vast range of issues such as these – continuously resolving and continuously evolving past and present.  For more on Bush Essences and for some self-love contact Kim at NBIP on 02 8406 0679 or book online @ www.nbip.com.au 

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