Bullying is traumatic for the victims. Many bullied teens have a difficult time getting over the experience.
Bullying can affect a teenager’s self-confidence and interfere with their ability to complete tasks, follow their regular routine, and enjoy the things that they normally enjoy. Understanding how bullying affects teens is an important aspect of helping teenagers who have been bullying victims get back to their normal routine.
Take a look at some of the things that you should know about helping a bullied teens.
Take it Seriously
The first thing that you need to know about supporting a teen who has been bullied is that it’s important to take their experience seriously.
Don’t tell bullied teens to just get over it or that it’s not that serious. Bullying – even bullying that doesn’t take the form of physical violence – can cause serious psychological harm to the victims.
Bullying victims need someone who will listen to their feelings and experiences and be supportive without judging them. It’s important for bullying victims to be able to talk about their feelings.
Parents may want to help their teen find a counselor that can help them sort through their feelings, and this is useful too, but it also helps the teen to have friends and family members to talk to. It’s OK if you don’t know exactly what to do or say – as long as your teen knows that you believe them and take their feelings seriously, you’re helping.
There are times when a bullied teen needs someone to stand up and defend them. Often, this is the case in the heat of the moment – when the victim is outnumbered, outmatched, or under siege, it can be too much for one person to deal with and the victim needs an advocate – often a parent or adult – to put a stop to the abuse.
However, bullied teens also need to be able to advocate for themselves, and this can be very difficult to do. The best time to teach a bullying victim about standing up for themselves is when they’re not being actively attacked. You can give them the tools that they’ll need to speak up for themselves and their needs. That may mean:
- Reporting bullies to an authority, like a school administrator, or, in serious cases, the police.
- Learning how to block bullies on social media sites.
- Asking for what they need in order to move on.
For example, a teen who’s recently experienced bullying on the school bus may need to ask for a ride to school for a while, until they feel safer and more confident taking the bus again.
It’s difficult to know exactly what another person needs in the wake of a traumatic experience – everyone is different, so what you would want may not be what your teen needs – so it’s important for bullying victims to learn to speak up for themselves and articulate their needs.
Facilitate a Return to Normalcy
Of course, you want to protect your teen, and if your teen has been the victim of bullying, your instinct might be to keep them closer to you and away from the bully and from anything else that might cause them harm.
But that’s not the way that the world works – eventually, your teen is going to need to return to their normal routine. And they’ll want to get back to normal so that they feel like a regular teen and not just a bullying victim.
What’s more, keeping your teen isolated and away from their regular activities is what the bully wants in the first place. They want to make your teen feel too unsafe to continue doing the things they enjoy.
Your teen may need to take a break to recover from their experience, or they may need to take steps to ensure that they’ll be safe doing the things they enjoy doing. But your teenager should definitely not give up on activities or outings that they enjoy, and your job as a parent of a teen is to help facilitate a return to normalcy.
That means talking to your teen about what they need and how they should handle potential bullying scenarios in the future. Focus on giving your teen the tools that they need to go back to doing the things they love without being further victimized.
Don’t fall into the trap of protecting your teen so much that you prevent them from getting back to living their life.
Healing is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Whether your teen is healing from a physical attack or from the emotional and psychological wounds of bullying, it’s important to be patient with them and to give them time.
Some days may be better than others. Your teen might have a bad day after a couple of good days and feel as if they’re backsliding, but it’s normal for there to be ups and downs in the recovery process. You can’t expect it to follow a straight, linear path.
Not only do you need to have patience with your teen, but you also need to remind them to have patience with themselves as well. Teenagers have less life experience than adults and often don’t realize what a slow pace healing can take – and that may make it extra frustrating for them.
Set a good example by demonstrating patience yourself and remind your teenager that it’s OK for them to take their time.
Bullying can take a serious toll on a teen’s well-being, but with the proper support from parents and other trusted adults and allies, a teen who’s experienced bullying can recover and hopefully avoid any long-term ill effects.
Make it a point to listen to your teen, take their concerns seriously, find a balance between advocating for them and encouraging them to advocate for themselves, and help them retake control of their life.