Supporting Your Teenager Through Bullying: Understanding, Strategies, and Solutions

Bullying can cause long-lasting harm to a young person's mental health and overall well-being. Discovering that your teenager is being bullied can be highly distressing for you as a parent or caregiver. However, there are strategies you can employ to provide support and guidance to help them navigate through this difficult experience.

Bullying is when a person or group deliberately and repeatedly hurts another person or group, usually happening when there is an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical (hitting or pushing, for example), verbal (such as name-calling, teasing, or saying mean things), or psychological (like spreading rumours, manipulating social relationships, or threatening to reveal personal information). It can happen in person or online (cyberbullying), which involves using digital technology to harass, humiliate, or send hurtful messages.

The impact of bullying can be devastating to a young person's mental health and well-being, especially when it continues over time.

It's important to note that having disagreements, arguments, or experiencing occasional hurtful comments from friends or peers does not constitute bullying. Bullying involves repeated mean and hurtful behaviour.

Signs of Bullying

Recognizing signs of bullying in teenagers can be more challenging than in younger children because teens may feel ashamed or afraid and may not confide in you. Here are some common signs that might indicate your tween or teenage child is being bullied:

  • Changes in behaviour: Becoming more isolated, having trouble sleeping, asking you for money
  • Withdrawal from social activities or suddenly deleting social media accounts
  • Physical: Unexplained injuries, regularly complaining of headaches or stomach aches
  • Reluctance to go to school or changes in academic performance

Communication is Key

It's important to keep lines of communication open. When teenagers feel safe and know they won't be judged, they find it much easier to talk about their experiences. Listen to them without interrupting, and don't jump in offering immediate solutions. They want to feel heard and understood. Let them know that:

  • They were right to speak to you about what is happening, even though it might have been hard
  • Bullying is never ok
  • This is not their fault
  • You will work with them to make things better

Having worked with young people for over ten years, I often hear from them that they don't want to worry their parents or carers. By keeping communication open and maintaining your connection, your teen will feel more confident that you can work out potential solutions together.

Practical Steps

  • Documenting Incidents: Keep a record of bullying incidents, including dates, times, and descriptions. Encourage your teen to write down what happened as soon as possible after the incident. If the situation escalates, this record can be used as evidence when reporting the bullying to the school or authorities.
  • Developing a Plan: Collaborate with your teen to establish a plan of action, including how to respond to bullying, who to approach for help, and what steps to take if the bullying continues.

When to Involve the School

When dealing with bullying, involving the school is important, but the first step is to talk to your child. Reassure them that you are in this together. When discussing the bullying with their head of year or pastoral lead, be specific about the incidents and their impact on your child. Ask about the school's policy on bullying and what measures will be taken to address the issue. It's important to approach this conversation calmly and constructively, focusing on finding a solution.

Advocate for your teen by staying informed about the school's actions. Avoid involving the other child or their parents directly, as this is more likely to make the situation worse. It's much better to work with the school on this.

Professional Help

If your teen is being severely affected by bullying, therapy can provide a safe space for them to process their experiences and develop healthy coping strategies. This can be done through the school or privately. However, it's important to talk to your child about this first and not go over their head; getting their buy-in is crucial.

Dealing with bullying is a continuous journey that requires your commitment and alertness. Your ongoing support is crucial in helping your adolescent child navigate this difficult situation and build resilience for the future.

If anything I've said resonates with you, please don't hesitate to get in touch HERE. Counselling with me can help you find effective strategies and solutions to support your teenager.