Your daughter comes home in tears because a peer said some nasty things about a picture of her on social media. Teens will be teens? No. This kind of thinking isn't going to cut it. Whether it is verbal, social, physical or cyber, Bullying Canada states if someone is hurting or scaring another person on purpose and that person is having a hard time defending themselves- This is bullying.
I've definitely heard the concerns from parents- if I get involved will I not making make it worse? If I get involved, am I not just enabling them to never learn how to figure out their own problems? There are ways to get involved that can empower teens while letting them know they are not alone.
As a parent you might notice a gut wrenching feeling taking you back to your teen experiences with bullying. Whether you were a bystander, the one doing the bullying, or the one being bullied, everyone has a story of bullying.
Just the other day, I was sharing with my kids about my experiences of being teased about my curly hair when I was younger. My kids responded to this story with empathy and a desire for justice. This reminded me that as parents, you and I can be a part of the solution when it comes to bullying.
If you want to help your teens stand against bullying, even though it’s a complex social issue, here are some things to consider:
Share your experiences and values
You can use your experience, even if you were a bystander or the person bullying. There are lessons and insights you can put forth for your teens to consider.
Focus on sharing your values and on how you want to behave as a human and let those guide these conversations (e.g. kindness or caring). Actions speaks loudly- consider how you are showing and living your values daily.
Teaching assertiveness and confidence skills
Assertiveness is different from aggression. Being assertive is standing up for the things you think, feel, and believe by expressing yourself in a way that is honest and respectful of others thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
This includes being open, listening to others, being accountable, apologizing for mistakes, expressing yourself, seeing your fellow humans as equal, sharing your appreciation of others. The best way to do this is by modeling it!
Consider the way you talk about others in front of your teen (or in general). Think about the interactions between your teen and yourself- are you open and listening? Do you name it when you make a mistake? Are you ok with disagreeing on viewpoints? Do you let them know when you appreciate something they've done or the way they've behaved?
It's a work in progress.
The next best thing to modeling is capturing teachable moments and jumping on those brief but important conversations.
Remember teens are really orienting to their peers so knowing their friends and the groups where they spend their time will also help you have an idea of what they are learning and being influenced by.
Always encourage your teen to tell someone they trust if they are being bullied or witnessing bullying – you, a teacher, coach, guidance counsellor, etc. It can be really hard to share if someone is hurting or scaring you, so be patient with your teen and keep those invitations open.
Remind your teen they are not alone- and reassure them that you are part of their squad. Proceed in a collaborative way with your teen by asking them how they would like to handle the situation and who they think could help support.
*** Ok this may sound contrary to what I just said but it is important to know there will be times when your teen will ask you to tell no one. Listen to them and their concerns about sharing, show them compassion, and let them know that you may still have to reach out to others in order to change things and support them.
Encourage your teen to find friendships that are supportive (on-line and in person). If your teen does not have those friendships already, consider how you might support them in that area. Encouraging them to join a group, club, trying a new hobby or volunteering can be great ways to meet new people.
check out online resources
The internet has so much information on bullying as well as specific steps to take to help resolve situations. Do some research and share the really interesting stuff you find with your teens. Here are a few ideas:
There are also great resources online with the aim of letting teens know they are not alone in their experiences. Here are a few resources you can check out:
*** This is nowhere near an exhaustive list- please find and add in the comments what you find 😊
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!
- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology mission is to help teen girls build Bulletproof Mindsets. Youth are full of greatness and uniqueness and it is a gift to have them share this with the world. Pyramid Psychology supports teens (and parents) that are struggling with anxious and overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Meeting in person in Southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions, Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try thought based, mindfulness, and expressive practices to manage and weather the storms of life.