During this Anti-Bullying Week, we want to support teachers and parents/carers to learn more about effectively supporting young people, whether they are on the receiving end
of bullying or are exhibiting bullying behaviours themselves. Bullying is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that can negatively impact a young person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, academic progress, and self-esteem.
Whether you are supporting a young person who is being bullied, or perhaps you have become aware of a young person bullying others, it can be painful and distressing
in both cases.
Here are 3 practical tips and insights for either scenario:
Supporting a Child Who is Being Bullied:
1. Reinforce the Value of Positive Relationships:
Encourage the child to focus on their meaningful relationships.
Remind them that the opinions of a bully do not define their worth.
Help them to understand that it's okay if not everyone likes them. No one will be everyone’s “cup of tea”. The right people will appreciate and accept them for who they are, as they are.
Create a supportive and understanding environment where they feel safe and valued for who they are.
2. Teach Assertiveness and Coping Strategies:
Empowering young people with assertiveness skills can help them stand up for themselves in non-aggressive ways. Talk about communicating their boundaries
Teach them coping strategies to manage their emotions and stress. Techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or finding a creative outlet can be effective. Encouraging them to engage in activities they enjoy and are good at can also boost their self-esteem and resilience by reminding them of their strengths.
3. Encourage Them to Seek Support and Report the Bullying:
Telling a teacher or parent about bullying can often be seen as “snitching” amongst young people. This may prevent them from coming to talk to you about things. Open up a direct conversation to let them know that it is a safe space and remind them that their happiness is most important.
Encourage the young person to report the bullying to a trusted adult, such as a teacher, school counsellor, or parent/carer. If the bullying is severe, persistent, or escalating, it may be necessary to seek additional support from professionals e.g. Safeguarding teams or law enforcement.
If bullying is taking place online (cyberbullying), remind young people that they can block people and report unwanted behaviours anonymously.
Addressing Bullying Behavior with a Young Person:
1. Understand the Young Person’s Needs:
Firstly, it’s really important to remember that a young person bullying others is not always a true reflection of who they are. Bullying can often stem from one’s own unmet needs such as wanting to fit in with a particular crowd, needing attention or gaining a sense of power. Challenges at home can also contribute to these behaviours.
Explore the underlying reasons for the bullying. Identifying where the behaviour stems from can help you to address it. Give them the space to talk about what is going on from their perspective and how they feel about it.
Hold young people accountable for their actions. Discuss and agree on alternative, positive ways for them to fulfil these needs without harming others.
Remember that some young people may not be able to articulate a reason for the bullying, in which case it may be necessary to seek guidance from professionals who explore certain behaviours e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
2. Foster Empathy and Discuss Consequences:
Talk about the impact of their actions on others and ask if they have ever felt that way before. Developing empathy is key for healthy relationships in general.
Discuss the consequences of bullying for the victims and themselves. Help the young person to understand that bullying can have a long-term impact on the person they are bullying and can also create negative labels on themselves in future.
Remind them that extreme forms of bullying or cyberbullying can be escalated to law enforcement, even if it got out of hand or was not intentional. Entering the legal system at a young age can negatively impact future prospects and opportunities and it is important to bring awareness to this.
3. Educate about Digital Citizenship:
Create open conversations about a young person’s online presence, which is often an extension of their reality. While you don't have to fully understand it, we have to be mindful that their online world matters to them. Make young people feel comfortable talking about things happening in their online lives as well as in person.
Familiarise yourself with the different social media platforms as this can help you to understand and identify the potential dangers they pose. Discuss the principles of digital citizenship and the importance of kindness and respect online.
While we use anti-bullying week to raise awareness on the matter, bullying happens all year round. Throughout the year we can prevent this behaviour by encouraging young people to be 'upstanders' instead of bystanders if they witness any form of bullying. Creating a sense of community amongst their peers can significantly mitigate bullying.
We must also equip young people with techniques to deal with conflicts assertively yet non-aggressively, guiding them to communicate, negotiate, or seek help.
Anti-Bullying Week serves as a reminder of teachers' and parents' critical role in tackling bullying. Whether supporting a child being bullied or addressing bullying behaviour, it's important to approach the situation with understanding, empathy, and proactive strategies.
Here are some other resources to tackle anti-bullying behaviour:
Kidscape, Help with Bullying: https://www.kidscape.org.uk/resources-and-campaigns/