The heart-wrenching stories and startling statistics coming out about bullying are commanding a justified level of concern in parents. With new data revealing that more kids are affected by bullying and cyber-bullying than we ever imagined and that both bullies and victims are at higher risk for suicide, our eyes are opening to the fact that we’re faced with a potentially life-threatening situation. So what can we do to protect our children against the painful effects of bullying?
The primary step in helping our children persevere when being bullied or facing other sources of trauma is equipping them with a solid foundation of emotional resilience by ensuring that they feel accepted at home. It is important that we accept our kids for whoever they are, no matter how different they are from us or from how we expected them to be. When kids feel consistently accepted for who they are, they are more able to cope with stress and adversity.
As parents, we want our kids to feel confident within themselves, so that even if they experience bullying, they will be able to recover. Resilience reflects the ability to ‘bounce back’ and move from being a victim to being a ‘survivor’, and even to becoming a ‘thriver’. If we want our children to have the ability to adapt to, handle, and overcome the tough situations they encounter in life, the effort to provide them with these skills must begin at home. Here are some of the do’s (with the don’ts coming in PART 2) of building resilience in our children.
Inspire Positive Emotions: It’s essential that we provide our kids with opportunities to have positive emotions. This sounds simple, but very often we get so distracted by the practicalities of parenting (making sure our kids change their clothes, brush their teeth, and do their homework) that we fail to provide them with enough opportunities to be joyful. We should always encourage our children to find pleasure and humor in life.
Find an Area of Interest: Helping our kids find an area that interests them and that they can excel in is a gift that can shape their lives. Get them involved in activities that help them feel good about themselves. Provide them with a variety of opportunities to find what specifically appeals to them. In doing this, we should be flexible in our expectations of children. If they prefer sketching cartoons when we’d prefer they were playing the cello, it is important to support them in their excitement. It is also important not to confuse false praise with encouragement. Kids can tell the difference and often feel confused when our compliments don’t match their accomplishments.
Teach Mindfulness: Children must be taught how to calm themselves down when falling apart or feeling aggressive. We can read young children books like The Peaceful Piggy, which introduces them to the benefits of mindfulness and how it can help them develop the ability to remain calm, even in the face of bullying.
Promote Problem Solving Skills: To equip our kids with invaluable problem solving skills, we must show them how to be flexible in their responses. If a child faces a challenging situation, it’s important to sit down with them and encourage them to think about the many possible courses of action available and which will yield the most benefit. If, for example, they endure teasing from a friend, what can they do? Is revenge really the best option? Does ignoring it really solve the problem? Should they talk directly to the friend about how the teasing makes them feel? Should an adult be present in the conversation?
Orient Them Toward the Future: Part of ensuring that our kids stay hopeful involves orientating them toward the future. Helping them plan for their future doesn’t necessarily mean knowing what uni they want to get into or how many children they plan to have. It also doesn’t mean creating a fantasy of a future that could never exist. It is more a matter of helping them focus on their real, everyday goals, like visiting a certain city or learning to drive a car. It can mean making them aware of a heroic person who inspires them or introducing them to slightly novel situations that open them up to new ideas and opportunities. Teaching our kids that the future holds brightness and possibility is a lesson that can lift them through low times.
Lead by Example: In each of the previous suggestions, it is vital to lead by example. Telling our kids what to do and how to behave will rarely influence them as much as showing them how to handle difficult situations. Exposing them to the constructive approaches we take in finding solutions to problems in our lives encourages them to handle matters in a similar way. If we come home complaining about our responsibilities or feeling victimized by our boss, we encourage kids to take the same attitude toward their own challenges.
For help with these and many other strategies to bully-proof your child (and even you), please contact us for a confidential appointment with any of our helpful Psychologists.
Reference: Dr Lisa Firestone via www.psychalive.org