Sue Atkins: Supporting your Teen Through Bullying
Some things when said can be incredibly damaging to the self-esteem of a young person. If cases of bullying are not dealt with in a healthy way, particularly if your teenager is going through tough times at school, they can have catastrophic effects on a young person’s wellbeing, mental health and self-esteem.
At Ditch the Label, we believe that bullying is never the fault of the person on the receiving end of it. Instead, the problem lies with the person who is doing the bullying. That’s not to say that the individual is to blame either. According to our research, 1 in 2 people under 20 will experience bullying at some point and the vast majority of those who bully, go through something traumatic in other areas of their lives. In light of this, bullying can be understood as a coping mechanism for other issues going on in a person’s life.
If your teen is experiencing bullying, it can be difficult to know what to say and do. Ditch the Label has teamed up with parenting expert Sue Atkins who advises parents on What NOT to say to your teen when they are being bullied:
Sue Atkins: Supporting your Teen Through Bullying
“Just Stand Up For Yourself”
This translates to: “You’re weak, and you’re too scared to step up and deal with this situation on your own.” This will make them feel worse. This disempowers a child who is being bullied as you are making them feel incapable and incompetent. You are leaving them on their own when they need support, nurturing, guidance and love the most. Normal levels of self-esteem are lost when a person is being bullied as they are battling shame and guilt, anxiety and fear and are seriously doubting themselves. Being confident and assertive doesn’t come so easily at this highly stressful time. So, stay connected with your child, help them feel capable, significant and courageous and that you are by their side as they go through this challenging and difficult time, reassuring them that they will get through it – together with you.
What To Say Instead: “I’m here to support you”
“Don’t Be So Sensitive”
This is very unhelpful too as a teen who is being bullied isn’t being just overly sensitive – they don’t need to ‘lighten up’ or ‘get over it’ they need support, words of encouragement and acknowledgement that they are hurt. Tell your kids what you love, respect and admire about them to build their resilience.
What To Say Instead: “I think you’re amazing”
As Gandhi said ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’
Meeting violence with violence perpetuates the idea that aggression is the answer – and clearly, it’s NOT! It escalates the problem rather than solves it. ‘Talk & Teach’ your kids that they are always presented with choices when their backs are against the wall, and it is possible to respond with both strength and compassion.
What To Say Instead: “How can we deal with this together?”
“Just Ignore It”
This, of course, is meant well but by simply ignoring the situation, it gives the wrong message to the bully because keeping quiet signifies that their behaviour is acceptable.
This piece of advice is also harmful because it’s a casual but important message that’s it’s OK to bottle up your emotions. Keeping negative feelings inside has long-term health effects, as it can cause heart disease and lead to clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
What To Say Instead “Keep a record of your experiences”
“Telling Will Only Make It Worse”
It’s never OK to be bullied and teachers need to know what’s happening – they may not be fully aware of what your child is going through so make an appointment and go and talk to your Head Teacher. Make bullet points so you remember the key points you want to make. The key thing is to strike while the iron is cold, never when you are angry or upset. Keep to the facts and make arrangements for a time to come back to discuss progress. It holds everyone accountable.
What To Say Instead: “Talk to someone you trust”
“Just Avoid Them”
Most adolescent bullying takes place in school, in the areas where there is little supervision — the changing rooms, the cafeteria, the playground, and crowded hallways. But trying to avoid these settings isn’t a feasible way to handle the problem. Avoidance is actually another way of condoning the behaviour of the bullies; they respond to it in the same way they respond to silence, by ‘big-ing’ themselves up and taunting others even more. It might be hard to step up and face the person bullying but running away won’t make it any better. Empower your child to play an active role in overcoming the bullying when you tell them that they don’t have to put up with it.
What To Say Instead: “You Don’t Deserve That Treatment”
Supporting Your Teen through Cyberbullying
1. Keep the computer/laptop in a common area of the home. Monitor their online usage.
2. Learn how various social networking websites work. Become familiar with Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Take an interest in new technology, ask your children to show you their profile pages and have a bit of fun while doing it!
3. Talk regularly and specifically with your children about online issues. Let them know they can come to you for help if anything is inappropriate, upsetting, or dangerous.
4. Build trust with your children. Set time limits, explain your reasons for them, and discuss rules for online safety and Internet use. Ask your children to contribute to establishing the rules; then they’ll be more inclined to follow them.
5. Tell your children not to respond to any cyberbullying threats or comments online, but don’t delete any of the messages. Instead, print out all the messages, including the e-mail addresses or online screen names of the cyberbully. You will need the messages to verify and prove there is cyberbullying.
6. Don’t overreact by blaming your children. If they are being bullied, be supportive and understanding. Find out how long the bullying has been going on and ensure that you’ll work together to find a solution. Let your children know they are not to blame for being bullied.
7. Don’t underreact or dismiss the bullying by telling your children to “shrug it off” or just deal with the bullying. The emotional pain and trauma of being bullied is very real and can have long-lasting effects. Don’t tease them about it or respond with a “kids will be kids” attitude.
8. Don’t threaten to take away your children’s computers/laptops/Ipads if they come to you with a problem. This only forces kids to be more secretive.
9. Talk to your school’s guidance counsellors/headteacher/group leader so they can keep an eye out for bullying during the school day.
10. Get the police involved. If there are threats of physical violence or the bullying continues to escalate.