14 Ways to Respond to Relational Aggression

Helping your daughter overcome emotional bullying

Excluded Sad Girl Is Looking The Group Talking
Simone Becchetti/E+/Getty Images

For girls, meaningful friendships are an important part of life. Aside from providing a sense of belonging and a sense of community, healthy friendships are a safe place where she can truly be herself. But when the chances for friendship are limited or destroyed due to relational aggression, the impact can be devastating. And, as a parent, you’re often left wondering what you can do to help. Although the road to recovery may not be an easy one, here are 14 ideas on how to help your daughter overcome emotional bullying and build lasting friendships.

Be a good listener. Encourage your child to talk and then let her talk. Do not interrupt, criticize or minimize what she is saying. In fact, be quiet until she has said everything she wants to say. Remember, talking out loud allows girls to process their experiences. Focus on keeping the lines of communication open so that she will confide in you.

Be empathetic. Do not trivialize your daughter’s problems. Avoid making comments like "no one will remember this next week," or "she wasn’t a good friend anyway." Instead, console and support your daughter in ways that empower her. Validate her feelings and demonstrate that you understand how she feels.

Pay attention to your child’s moods. Sudden changes in mood can sometimes signal that bullying is taking place. Never ignore these changes or write them off as hormones until you have verified what is at the root. Changes in behavior, sleeping patterns, school performance and moods should always be seen as warning signs that something is amiss.

Monitor Internet and cell phone activity. Many girls use the Internet and cell phones to bully others. Whether it’s a mean post on Facebook, a hurtful text message or a vengeful blog, girls often resort to emotional bullying online. Make sure you know what your daughter is doing online and how people are treating her.

You may spot some things that need your input. So keep tabs on her online activity.

Take steps to protect your child from cyberbullying. The Internet and social media are often tools used by relational bullies. Using the Internet to bully is called cyberbullying. Be sure you know what types of cyberbullying your child may experience. And, take steps to prevent cyberbullying in her life.

Teach your child to recognize what is controllable and what isn’t. Be sure your daughter knows that she has no control over what other people say or do. But, she can control how she responds. Brainstorm ways that she could respond to the bullying so that she can see that she is not helpless in the situation.

Advise her, but don’t try to "fix" things. It’s never a good idea for parents to take over and try to fix things. Instead, help her explore different options such as making new friends and talking with a school counselor. But, let your daughter decide what is best. When you demonstrate that you trust her decisions, you are building a feeling of competency within her.

Focus on rebuilding self-esteem. Bullying of any type damages self-esteem. As a result, be generous with praise and help your daughter identify her strengths and her unique qualities. If you take steps to help build a healthy self-esteem, your daughter will not only feel better about herself, but she also will become less of a target for bullies.

Encourage journaling. Research demonstrates that writing about painful or traumatic events helps victims process the experience. Journaling allows them to break down the experience in a meaningful way. Additionally, if dates and times are recorded, journals also can serve as a record of the bullying. This is useful if you need to report bullying to the school principal.

Teach her to stand up for herself. While you want your daughter to be empathetic to others, it's also important that she learn to be assertive. The goal is that she learn to defend herself in a respectful manner without being aggressive or mean.

Support healthy coping skills. Help your daughter find healthy ways of dealing with the stress and anxiety that relational aggression can cause. For instance, she may find that exercise, crafts and journaling help her manage stress. Other coping options include religious practices, volunteering and expanding social opportunities.

Try not to intervene too soon. For many parents, the first thought is to call the school and get the situation addressed immediately. But, as long as there are no safety issues, sometimes it helps to let your daughter manage things. Doing so, reinforces that you believe in her ability to handle her life.

Know when to contact school officials. While it’s important to give your daughter the chance to solve the issue on her own, you don’t ever want to delay contacting school officials if a student has threatened or physically harmed your daughter. You also want to contact school officials if the bullying is continuing or escalating.

Know when to get outside help. Allowing bullying go on too long can have devastating effects on your daughter. For example, if she is not recovering or returning to normal, you contact a counselor. And, if your daughter is depressed or has hinted at suicide, it is time to get immediate assistance. If you don’t have a counselor to call, ask your doctor for a recommendation. But, never ignore the impact of bullying or to assume that "she will get over it."

Continue Reading