Young people are delicate. However, there are topics in my line of work as a life coach for kids that are more sensitive than others. Bullying is one of them. With study motivation or anxieties, most of the transformation is internal—in our head. However, when we are working in cases of bullying, many young people and parents feel like it doesn’t matter what they decide in their head, those people will still be at the school gates saying things, or online spreading rumours. That is why I recommend empowering teenagers through parent coaching.
For this reason, I want to encourage you to read this article. Take it seriously like you would with parenting classes. However, also look online for practical help in your area. As always, I’ve put links to some beneficial resources such as Kidscape and Bullying UK at the bottom. It is not an easy topic and parents will need to prepare themselves as much as possible. This is why I had to provide more information below along with links to websites that I like and respect. When it comes to empowering teenagers through the difficulties of bullying, no amount of information is too much.
There are two main areas in which parents can be involved in empowering teenagers to deal with bullying
The first area I will suggest from my kids coaching experience is to ensure your children feel free to speak up. Unfortunately, many teenagers will do a fantastic job of hiding their situations and emotions. Sadly, a lot of parents will only realize when it’s too late. I will share some ideas later on.
The second area is to decide when to intervene and the appropriate intervention. Many times the person blocking your help might be your child as they don’t want to either attract more attention or send the message that he/she needs “mummy or daddy” to resolve the problems because he or she is not strong enough.
What are the signs that my child is being bullied?
Let’s start with what we need to look out for. Probably, no one has mentioned this in your parenting classes before. Again, what I am trying to do here is to provide enough information while keeping a deep topic simple.
Change of behaviour. Behavioural changes tend to happen over time. However, it is unlikely that you will notice any drastic changes. Remember, your son or daughter will become a great actor. It is only by comparing their behaviour over a few months that you will notice the difference. I always advise parents or guardians coaching kids to be very observant. Keep an eye for the sleep patterns; if they are uneasy when going to bed, experience shorter hours of sleep, maybe nightmares or uncomfortable sleep.
Check their enthusiasm about going to school; are they looking forward to seeing their friends or just going automatically with no sense of fun? What activities are they doing? Are they pulling away from things they used to like? Sometimes they will express their suppressed anger towards you or other family members. However, at other times they will let it eat them up. Consequently, they become more closed off, less talkative, less engagement in all their social life.
In parenting classes, I tell parents, “Once your child starts showing less enthusiasm to new ideas, there is a big problem”
The most important thing, I think, as a life coach for kids, is to look for patterns. Some of those changes might be perfectly normal (they don’t want to go to their dance club anymore because their friends are not going or it’s not fun). It is not about one big thing, but many small things.
What is happening in their friendships? Unfortunately, when a person is being bullied, some of the so-call friends will become distant as if they don’t want to be seen with them. Perhaps, they are afraid the bully will turn on them too. I hear this excuse a lot during kids coaching sessions. While this is annoying, it is essential to see it as a natural response for those kids to be safe. In our case, what we want to see is what’s going on and why those friends are not with him/her anymore. Also, what other friends they have. Who do they talk about? Who do they socialize with?
Unfortunately, Sometimes Good Parenting Means Making Difficult Choices
Now, I am aware what I am about to say will probably grant you the title of ‘most hated dad or mum of the year’. However, if you have a cause for concern, go and talk with their friends. Contact their parents and ask them for permission to talk with them. When talking with your child’s friend, mention you have noticed somethings and give some examples. Reassure them that you will keep it confidential and that they are helping, rather than telling tales.
From my experience of coaching kids, it is important to let you know what to expect. I doubt you will get a clear yes or no. However, you will get further insightful information about social dynamics around your child. Also, you are creating a line of communication. Ensure their parents know the situation as maybe your child’s friends would feel better talking to their own parents rather than to you about your son or daughter. Thus, the parents can always revert the message back to you.
During parent coaching classes, I tell them not to neglect the relationship existing among siblings.
Friends are just as important as siblings
They might be disclosing information to their sisters or brothers, and they feel they must keep secret from you. Therefore, ensure you talk with them without making them panic. Ask them about what might be happening. While they might not know anything, maybe through friends, they might catch some important information.
Obviously, the most important part is to ensure you and your teenager are having a conversation. You can’t imagine how many parents tell me in parenting classes, “I thought it was just a phase and let it pass” or “I wasn’t sure what to do and hope it would go away”. I have some videos and articles about how to communicate with our children, please watch or read them.
Understanding the Elephant in the room is the key to empowering your teenager.
The key point I am making here is the elephant in the room. Bring up the topic without panic, worry or pressure. You will likely need several conversations before your son or daughter decides to freely express themselves. The most important thing you can tell them is: “I’ve got your back. I am here for you. Whatever happens, we can work something out. I am here to help you.”
Ok, so now, you have an understanding. Something is going on, your teenager will probably ask you to stay away, and you might feel very tempted to do so (I have to believe in my child, I promised him I would not intervene, or I am not sure what to do). As a professional life coach for kids, I tell you this is a bad idea.
What things you can do now to empower your teenager to cope with bullying
1- Avoid normalisation of the issue
By not talking about it or taking action, we are allowing it to become normal. Therefore, talk to your kid on different terms. Use analogies and third person to make it less personal, such as; “If you knew who robbed a bank and hurt people in the process wouldn’t you have the responsibility to tell the police?” “What if somebody stole your car, wouldn’t you want to know who did it and get your car back?” “If it was your friend who was going through it, and you could do something about it, would you just stop and look?” Or “if you see somebody robbing an old lady, maybe you would not face the thug, but you would most likely help the old lady and call an ambulance if needed.”
As with the points above, you might likely need many chats, and maybe you will need help from other relevant people to help the message go through. Coaching kids can be a tough job but persistence always wins.
2- Be honest in what is likely to happen
Your son or daughters’ worst nightmare is that everybody will find out (even if everybody probably already knows), that they will bring even more attention to themselves, that things will get even worse if they talk. These are all valid points and, most importantly, they are very emotional points. This means that our well thought through ideas will not make a difference as emotions will always be stronger than thoughts.
Another issue is that your child sees no solution for what’s happening. Let’s be honest, if they thought there was an answer, they probably would have done something. This creates further paralysis in them.
Share in your child’s emotion and they will easily open up to you
The process of empowering teenagers can take a double approach; honestly using rational thought and helping them see the options they have.
When coaching kids, I help them to deal with the myth that everybody will find out. Well, unless you are living on another planet, I would suggest most people already know this is happening. Even more, I’d be surprised if the bully isn’t telling as many people as they can already. As a life coach for kids, I help them to look the other way.
Therefore, there is no need trying to handle the fear of bringing more attention to yourself—you can hardly bring more. The bully is already focussed on you, and unless something changes, this person is only going to increase their actions. Don’t fool yourself, things only tend to get worse unless we do something about it.
Things will get worse. Yes, this might happen if we are not clever on how to do it or if we do it alone. However, if we bring the school and authorities along with ourselves, we will resolve it together.
It is critical that you not overpromise or lie. It is likely to be a difficult process. However, it is one that needs to happen for things to improve. It is also a process in which your teenager is not alone. There are lots of people who can help and who are willing to help.
3- Have a plan, including a safe area
At this point, you would have reported the situation to school. The Inspection and Education Act, 2006 means that every school will have an anti-bullying policy or behaviour policy that will set out its code of practice to dealing with bullying, find out what it is and work with the school to put a safety plan including a daily routine that needs to change. Another thing parenting classes do is to make parents aware of the rights that affect their children.
Here is when the adults might need to step up. We might have to drive them to school or pick them up if the issue is there. Also, we might need to demand a safeguarding teacher to check on him or her, involve playground supervisors. We might need to ask his or her friends to help him/her or spend more time with him/her. The more people involved, the safer they will feel, and the more open to express themselves they will become. During parent coaching sessions I always advise they never try to go about the problem alone.
The two key ideas here are:
1) we have a plan to make this work
2) you are not alone, and we all have our back.
4 – Finally, give them some tools to empower themselves
There is plenty of information about bullying and empowering teenagers online. However, the usual ones are: avoid engaging with them, walk away, manage your body language and always, always report any incidence.
I have worked with many parents through parent coaching routines, and when we talked about the situation, they broke down in tears. They felt they had let their kid down and had a great sense of guilt. I can totally understand it. For this reason, this process is as healing for teenagers as it is for the parents. By taking action, having a plan, we are taking ownership and responsibility. We might have to adapt the plan, have several conversations with parents, or the school. It’s OK. What is most important is the unshakable belief that we will go through this and succeed.
And this is it for me today. As you know, there are other articles on this blog and more to come to help you. Find time to browse through and feel free to contact me if you want me to address any specific topic PERSONALLY.
As always, If you like the article please share it with your friends. It feels fulfilling for me to share with your family and friends. Therefore, help spread the word and support other parents.