Bullying: Hearing your child’s story

For parents and carers the term bullying can often fill them with dread. Is my child or children at risk? How could this happen? What is the school doing? Will it stop?

I have worked with parents for almost 20 years and have seen the fear and anger that bullying produces in adults concerned about their child. However, I also know that adults need reassurance that there are things that they can do to resolve the situation.

The biggest mistake I see is parents who go straight to demanding action the moment they hear the word bullying. When adults show their distress or anger, it can make children concerned about sharing their story because of the belief they are the ones causing adults upset. This I have found is particularly true for young carers.

What I have found to be more useful is ‘active listening’.

Active listening requires three key things:

1. Not giving your opinion or offering a solution – this can be really hard when you want to share your views on what’s happened and come up with a way to solve the problem.

2. Repeating back what you have heard – this sounds so simple, but it is really important for children and young people to hear their words repeated. It gives reassurance that the things they have to say matter. Try and use the exact words spoken.

3. Don’t interrupt – this can be particularly difficult when your child is sharing an aspect which is distressing, you can always come back to this, but the goal is to let them express what is happening and how it makes them feel.

What is suggested here is simple and highly effective to supporting children and young people who are involved in a bullying situation.

Dr Luke Roberts, works with schools, children’s homes and prisons to address bullying. He is passionate about ensuring adults know how to identify and peacefully resolve bullying situations. 


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