4 Strategies That Encourage Your Child to Talk about Bullying

How to get your child to open up about bullying


Research shows that kids often do not tell anyone about the bullying they are experiencing. There are a variety of reasons for their silence including everything from feelings of embarrassment and humiliation to worry that they deserved it. They also might keep silent out of fear that no one will believe them or they might worry that the bully will retaliate if they tell. But there are a number of things parents can do to start a conversation about a bullying.

Here are seven strategies parents can use to encourage their kids to talk about bullying.

Listen more and talk less. Children want to be heard. So listening will get you a lot more mileage with your child than talking. To truly listen to what your children are saying, be sure you can repeat back what they just said. And ask questions to clarify things that don’t make sense or you don’t understand.

Also, don’t jump in and automatically share your opinion. Instead, try to reflect on your child’s words and the feelings behind those words. Doing so can help you develop a clearer understanding of what your child is trying to communicate. And if you spot signs of bullying in what they are saying or you spot signs of troubled friendships, be sure to ask more questions.

Remember, listening to what your child says and asking questions communicates that you not only care about what they have to say but you also care about them.

And when you have established this trust, your child is more likely to open up when there is problem.

Validate your child’s feelings. To validate your child’s feelings, means that you communicate that you understand how your child is feeling even if you don’t agree with those feelings. Be sure your child knows that you accept his feelings.

For instance, you might say: “I understand how much that must have hurt you,” or “I’m sorry you had to experience that.”

When you are able to validate your child’s feelings, you create an environment where he feels safe sharing with you. Your child will begin to feel that it is okay to be authentic and real about how he feels when talking with you. As a result, when something painful happens like bullying, relational aggression, name-calling or cyberbullying, he will be more likely to share the details with you because he trusts that you will understand.

Avoid being impatient or insensitive. Children are very adept at recognizing when parents are “too busy” or don’t want to be bothered. If this is the message you regularly send to your child, you run the risk of shutting down communication between the two of you. As a result, when a big issue like bullying crops up, your child will be hesitant to talk with you because he fears you will say things like “hurry up,” “spit it out,” or “I’m busy.”

Likewise, avoid being insensitive when your child is communicating with you. If you regularly use sarcasm or put downs, then your child will be less likely to share something as painful as bullying with you. Instead, he will likely stay quiet out of fear that you will make light of his pain.

Ask for more information. To build open communication between you and your child, you need to ask questions when he is talking. For instance, asking open-ended questions encourages him to keep talking and sharing.

But you want to avoid questions that are too probing or might be accusatory in some way. These questions shut down a conversation. They also tend to make children uncomfortable and can impact whether or not your child will be as likely to share the next time. You especially want to ask questions if you notice that your teen is showing signs of depression or thoughts of suicide. Be sure to seek outside help if you notice any of these warning signs.

Continue Reading