How Reframing Bullying Can Help Kids Cope

4 Ways to Teach Your Child to Think Differently About Bullying


Have you ever noticed how when two kids face similar bullying situations, one person might describe the ordeal as a harrowing experience while another barely considers it a problem? Or have you witnessed one teen’s cyberbullying experiences and wondered how she is able to remain so resilient?

Many times, these situations involve a phenomenon that psychologists call “reframing.” Reframing involves changing your child’s perspective of a bullying experience.

As a result, it can turn a stressful experience, like being on the receiving end of relational aggression or mean girl behavior, into a challenge to be dealt with courageously.

Reframing also allows your teen to see the bullying for what it really is – a choice made by the bully and not an indication that something is truly wrong with her. Teens also can learn to view the bullying as a learning experience rather than allowing it to define how they feel about themselves.

When reframing is used to alter a child’s perceptions of bullying, it can relieve a significant amount of stress even before the parents and the school administrators have implemented steps to bring the bullying to an end. Here are a five reframing techniques to help your child effectively cope with a bullying situation.

Teach your child to identify her negative thoughts. Help her learn to recognize when she is slipping into negative, stressful or anxiety-laden patterns of thinking.

If she is initially unable to see when she is dwelling on things or thinking negative thoughts about herself, have her keep a thought journal. She should write down incidents that occurred, how they affect her thinking and what she wants to be different. Being aware of negative thoughts is an important first step in challenging and reframing your child’s perception of the bullying.

The goal is for your child to learn to recognize her negative thoughts so that she doesn’t get caught up in them.

Encourage your child to challenge her thoughts. Part of reframing involves your child learning to examine her thoughts for truth and accuracy. Teach her to look at the evidence both for and against her thinking. The goal is to make sure she can see the entire picture. Too many times kids will remain in a victim-mode of thinking if they do not challenge the way they look at their situation. You also can teach her to challenge her thoughts by looking at the consequences if she continues to think negatively about herself and her situation. For instance, her grades and her friendships may begin to suffer.

Help her replace thoughts with more positive thoughts. One way to do this is to talk to her about the bullying but refrain from using intense words like horrible, traumatic and awful. You might also try looking up some great inspirational quotes that speak to overcoming challenges and make a collage together.

Also, help her look for the “gift” in the situation. For instance, what can she learn from this experience? Maybe she will discover she is stronger than she thought. Or perhaps she will discover a true friend in the process. Help her to find the silver lining in her situation.

Brainstorm with your child. A lot of times kids will feel better about their situation when they feel like they have a plan in place. For instance, find out what your child wants to learn from this situation. A lot of great anti-bullying programs have come from a child who was bullied. For instance, Caitlin Prater-Haacke, a teen from Canada, inspired her entire community by developing a positive post-it note campaign at her school. After being cyberbullied, Prater-Haacke decided instead of letting mean comments hurt her, she would post positive notes on every student’s locker in the school. This is a perfect example of how kids can reframe an extremely hurtful and painful situation into a something positive. It is clear that changing the way a child thinks about a bullying experience can have a huge impact. 

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