Bullying Questions and Answers
By: Sarah Reik, LPC
Often parents and people working with youth are the first to notice signs that they may be bullying or being bullied. These questions and answers are here to give you confidence to understand the nature of bullying and help you know the best way to approach the situation.
What are some warning signs that a teen is being bullied?
Signs that your teen is being bullied include:
- Missing or destroyed items
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in eating or sleeping
- A significant drop in grades
- Frequent physical complaints, or increased anxiety about going to school
- Withdrawal from friends
- Signs of depression including sadness, helplessness, decreased self-esteem, self-harm, etc.
What is the best way to approach a teen who seems to be experiencing bullying?
If you believe your teen is being bullied, approach him or her with what you have seen and heard that leads you to believe that. Ask your teen directly about what specifically has happened, so that you can get as clear of a picture as possible. If you suspect that your teen is being cyberbullied, assure him or her that you will not take computer or cell phone privileges away, but that you want to work with your teen to get the bullying to stop.
Are there any signs that my teen may be participating in the bullying of others?
Signs that your teen may be participating in bullying include:
- Aggressive behavior toward parents, teachers, or peers
- Impulsivity and frustration
- Attempts to hide conversations with peers from you—whether on the phone or on the Internet
- Lack of concern or empathy for others’ feelings, even a sense of satisfaction when others are hurt
- Engaging in gossip or demeaning talk about others, or intentionally isolating others
How can we encourage and help teens who are facing bullying?
Let them know that you are on their side and are committed to helping them find a solution. Role-play scenarios and help them practice assertive responses. Engage teachers and school counselors immediately and alert them to the issues—the people involved, where the bullying is taking place, and what specifically is happening. Engage the bully’s parents if possible to discuss possible solutions. Finally, follow-up is very important. Often teens will try a solution that is offered, and then feel even more helpless when it doesn’t work. Ask on a regular basis whether the situation has changed, and continue to work with them until the bullying stops.
Are there any proactive things parents and youth workers can do to address this issue?
Give teens the constant message that they are loved and valued by God and by you. Talk to them about what Jesus has done for them, and point out the special qualities and skills God has given them. When teens are given these truths about their worth, they are less likely to believe peers who try to convince them otherwise.
Teach teens the importance of social skills such as smiling, eye contact, and listening. The lack of assertiveness is the number one characteristic of children who are bullied, and the lack of empathy is the number one characteristic of children who bully others.
Model and practice these traits of assertiveness and empathy on a regular basis.
Set clear standards of behavior with children from a young age. Teach them right from wrong, based on what God says in his Word. Talk about how to love others, and be consistent with consequences when they are unloving toward others.
Educate yourselves and your teens about Internet safety, and read through and agree to an Internet use contract such as this: Internet Use Contract. A contract makes Internet use expectations very clear, and it addresses much of the misuse that can lead to cyberbullying.
Sarah Reik, LPC: Sarah rejoined WLCFS in 2012. She received her BA in Psychology from Wisconsin Lutheran College and her MS in Counseling Psychology from UW-Madison. Prior to rejoining WLCFS, Sarah owned a private counseling practice, and she has 15 years of experience counseling individuals, couples and families.
Sarah specializes in educational presentations and in-services on the topic of bullying. These can be done in person or via video and are great resources for students and even school or ministry staff. You can learn more about these presentations at WLCFS Educational Presentations.