5 Ways to Support a Child Who Witnesses Bullying

Did you know that… 85% of all bullying against children are witnessed by peers? 75% of the time, children will watch without intervening (or by joining in)? And yet - 57% of the time, when another child intervenes, the bullying stops within 10 seconds? Unfortunately, children witnessing aggression are often disturbed by it, with feelings that last throughout life. In fact, many adults carry guilt for staying silent, or even joining in…And even as adults we often have trouble interrupting behaviour by other adults that is unkind or unjust. There is an enormous untapped potential for young people to interrupt bullying behavior and become allies. They will need information, skills, confidence and support to take positive action. Children need us to help develop these, along with our compassion and our belief in them. Without this, any expectation that young people be strong and our disappointment or even anger when they are not so, places an undue burden on them. So how can we encourage our kids to break the “code of silence” that surrounds bullying? First and foremost, modeling positive behaviour to our children is essential. They are always watching our reactions, and learn to tolerate or reject injustice and cruelty while shaping their own values. Fostering an active culture of kindness, compassion and caring for others will create an atmosphere in our homes that will inform life-long decisions. Below are 5 COPA strategies to support our children based on our three fundamental strategies: self-assertion, peer support and adult support: 1. When your child comes forward, affirm their courage. Thank them for “telling” when it can feel so risky. 2. Listen carefully and as calmly as possible to your child’s description of the situation, and their fears and feelings. Believe them and take all their concerns seriously. 3. Let them know that you believe in their capacity to champion others when needed. Knowing that you understand that and do not blame them will strengthen your child’s resolve. 4. Remind your child that most people – young and old – do not like bullying, and want to do something to stop it. Encourage them to find other allies so that they can feel stronger, together. 5. Brainstorm ideas together. Powerful and effective strategies for interrupting bullying can be as simple as: Saying something like, “Hey, that’s not cool” Refusing to laugh along Making a kind and supportive comment - for example, “Actually, I like that sweater on you” or “I’m glad you joined the team.” AND: Remember to follow up once the action was taken. And tell them you will do so, and if the plan doesn’t work, it’s OK, and you will work side by side to work on next steps. COPA has some more fantastic resources available on line on our website for parents and caregivers - copahabitat.ca - and in print and DVD format, available free of charge by ordering from our eBoutique: · Our easy-to-use pocket guide highlighting COPA’s unique steps for empowerment problem-solving · Our series of 10 engaging short animated films featuring the Capsule families, and discussion guides on preventing bullying · Our multimedia toolkits designed for parents and caregivers - WE ALL BELONG and A Circle of Caring · Our fun app that helps develop emotional intelligence and communication: Emotichrome · Our illustrated storybook series for young children featuring the Capsule families and the theme of kindness, compassion, caring and courage · Our comic book for children 9-11, also featuring the Capsule families and the theme of peer pressure And coming soon: Guide for parents and guardians on home and school collaboration And if you are an educator looking to prevent bullying and strengthen home and school collaboration, look for our guides and Professional Learning Modules - part of Safe@School, a joint initiative with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.