Our initial reaction can often be one that is driven by raw feelings of protectiveness, anger and love. Some parents are instinctively driven to contact the bully’s parents and the school, demanding the situation is resolved. While this is not necessarily the wrong thing to do -there is perhaps a few steps in between that would seem to be important no matter what the outcome.
If you have just learnt about your child being bullied it may perhaps be that you heard it from your child directly. In this case, your child has opened up to you about something that was probably bothering them for some time. They are most likely feeling overwhelmed, embarrassed and uncertain. Alongside these feelings, they were perhaps uncertain about telling anyone, and yet they have trusted you and sought your help. This help-seeking behaviour is a very positive sign and signifies that your child trusts you to listen, provide a safe space for them and ultimately to try and support them in this difficult situation. It also indicates your child has learnt to seek additional resources to deal with stressful situations. This is a wonderfully positive skill that will help them to develop resilience throughout the many stressors they will experience in their lives.
Naturally, when we hear that our child is suffering and at the hands of another we may instinctively jump into fight mode. It is very understandable this triggers overwhelming emotions in us as parents. However, to allow our emotions to overcome us at this stage could give your child the message that we cannot handle what they are saying. First and foremost your child is needing safety, validation, comfort and security. Taking a few slow calm breaths before responding can be a great tool to calm yourself and focus on the emotions of the child rather than your own emotional reaction. If you can hear their story, empathise, validate, enquire, find out the details and calmly think it over before deciding on the best course of action, it will reinforce trust and help-seeking behaviour in the future.
It’s a tough job being a parent and after you have addressed your child’s emotional needs make sure you take time to speak to an adult friend or professional so that you also feel supported.
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