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Ways to “Be There” as an Adult

1. Listen to the Child

When a child approaches you about a bullying situation, be prepared to listen without judgment, and provide a safe and supportive place where your child can work out his or her feelings. Children may not be ready to open up right away as they, too, are dealing with the emotional effects of bullying and may be feeling insecure, frightened, vulnerable, angry, or sad.

When a child begins to tell his or her story, just listen and encourage him or her to talk. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the situation, such as how long the behavior has been happening, who has been involved, and what steps have been taken. Let him or her know they are not alone and you are there to help.

2. Talk With the Child

Bullying is an emotional issue — it’s natural to feel angry or sad. But the child is now looking to you for help. Adults may have a reaction to tell the child to stand up to the person bullying, ignore the bullying, or take matters into her own hands. While these reactions express genuine caring, concern, and good intention, they are likely to be ineffective responses.

Instead, tell the child it is NOT her fault and she is NOT alone. Let her know you will work together to develop an action plan, as she has the right to feel safe at school and be treated with respect.

3. Support and Empower the Child

After hearing your child’s story, encourage him to work with you to create an action plan to help stop the bullying. Talk with your child about ways you can support him and intervention strategies he can use, such as working with the school or learning self-advocacy skills. Creating a plan that works with your child’s strengths and abilities can help build self-confidence and resilience. Make sure to share these agreed-upon strategies with those involved in your child’s life, such as teachers, bus drivers, coaches, and other adults who interact with your child on a daily basis.

4. Know the Law and Policy

  • Check your state’s legislation on bullying. Each state has different laws and policies on bullying, along with requirements on how schools should respond. Visit PACER.org/Bullying to learn more about the legislation in your state.
  • Safe Schools bullying prevention offices can be a great local resource to learn more about your state legislation.
  • Contact your school and request the district’s bullying policy. It’s important to document all events and communication.
  • When bullying is based on race, national origin, sex, age, disability, or religion, it can overlap with discriminatory harassment. Under federal civil rights laws, schools are required to respond to these situations.

5. Think Through Who Else Should be Involved

In addition to being supportive and empowering your child to write down a plan, it can be very helpful to document the steps that you plan to take or have already implemented. Written records provide a history, which can be very helpful. You can also think through your strategy about how to involve others who can help your child. This might include determining who you will contact — for example, someone at school, a family physician, or a counselor — what you plan to ask them, and how you will be involved.

 
 

When students experience bullying, they often feel that there is nothing they can do to stop it. As an adult, you can work with the child to empower them, build them up, and help to resolve the situation.