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Please Pray for Me: I’m Being Bullied
Last week I had the opportunity to pray for some elementary students and was amazed that every single third grader I met with asked for prayer because they were being bullied. What concerned me even more was that each child reported not having discussed their being bullied with an adult. While my recent experience of those being bullied was pervasive, research shows that bullying prevalence is in fact high, with 1 out of 3 children reporting that they are being bullied.
This means that you know a child who is being bullied.
What Can You Do To Help?
Create a Safe Environment
Kids want to tell you they are being bullied but may feel apprehensive or scared of the outcomes of telling. Every child wonders whether others see who they are, accept who they are, care about their experience and whether others will continue to love and accept them if they tell.
Taking a proactive approach is critical. Creating an environment where your children feel comfortable to express themselves to you will go a long way in helping to prevent bullying from happening, reduce the length of exposure a child has to being bullied and toward helping stop the bullying.
Listening without expectations and with curiosity will encourage an environment of open conversation. This will also help your youth to feel more confident and comfortable to share their experiences, especially when they feel uncomfortable about something. Open-ended questions tend to invite more dialogue than closed questions. Open-ended questions help communicate that you care to listen and are available to receive a deeper and longer response. We may not always have the time to listen but listening when the youth initiates conversation is especially valuable in developing a safe connection.
Be Actively Curious
Stopbullying.gov provides some examples of open-ended questions that help facilitate conversation with your youth, such as:
Teach them their Worth
When we teach youth their value and treat them with respect, they will be less susceptible to being subjected to abuse from someone else. As the youth grow in personal awareness of their value, they will also grow increasingly uncomfortable with anyone unwilling to respect their worth.
God provides vast perspective regarding the value and capacity of those who are in God. Biblical scriptures such as these are worth sharing, reiterating and discussing with your youth:
Get Specific about what Respect Looks Like
I have worked with adult clients who were being abused in a relationship but never previously realized they were in an abusive relationship. No one had explained to them the difference between an abusive, controlling or manipulative relationship versus an honorable and equitable relationship. You can help your child or teen with the present and future by helping increase their awareness of healthy relationships. Support them in growing in an understanding of what a respectful relationship looks and sounds like, by sharing some of these examples:
Invite deeper discussion. Consider sharing personal examples of people in your life who did or said something respectful and when someone did not. Invite your youth to also share some personal examples. This will help them further conceptualize what respect does and does not look like.
Respond to Bullying
How we respond to our youth sharing difficult information will greatly influence if and what they will share in the future. While it is absolutely understandable to become upset when learning that a youth has been bullied, responding in a calm manner will help children and teens feel confident that the adult can handle the information and provide helpful support. Listening without interruption is the most valuable initial response when a youth chooses to disclose to you that they are being bullied.
The website Provider-Parent Partnerships provides perspective of additional helpful responses if or when you learn that a youth is being bullied:
Use terms and language that the child can understand. If the child says something that you don’t understand, like a word for a body part, ask the child to explain or to point to the body part. Don’t correct or make fun of the words the child is using. When you use the same words as the child does, it helps the child feel less confused and more relaxed. The child will feel that you understand him.
Tizita Seifu is licensed by the State of Texas as a Licensed Professional Counselor. She received her M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary which included studies in Clinical Counseling, Bible