Tips for Parents and Caregivers of Children Who Witness Bullying
It is very likely that your child has observed a bullying incident while at school or in the neighborhood.
Bystanders, while not directly involved in bullying, can be negatively impacted by these encounters.
They may feel anxious about what they witnessed, worried about the bullied child or ambivalent about how to respond. Your response can help your child recognize that bullying is a serious problem and can empower your child to become an ally to children who are bullied.17,22
If your child reports that he or she observed bullying, listen carefully to the description of what occurred. Be on the lookout for escalating negative behaviors or increasingly violent behaviors against one child and report this to the school.
Establishing positive communication is key to supporting young people. This includes being available for your child, listening to him or her and responding non-judgmentally when your child shares a concern.
In order to promote positive communication, it is often helpful to ask your child to brainstorm possible solutions to problems before sharing your own ideas. Developing this routine in daily interactions can prepare your child to respond flexibly and effectively in problem situations.29
Talking to Children Who Are Bystanders
- Ask questions to discover your child’s experience with bullying at school:
- What is your child’s relationship to the child who bullies and the target?
- What do your child’s friends think and do about bullying?
- What does your child think he or she should do?
- Reflect on your child’s feelings. Consider what issues may be influencing your child and the choices of bystanders.
- Brainstorm a range of helpful bystander responses.
- Discuss potential outcomes to different responses and have your child identify a positive action he or she is willing to try.