Explaining bullying to younger children

Children Finger Pointing at a Boy Sitting on a Wooden Floor

Bullying comes in different forms, like teasing, name-calling, spreading mean rumors, making threats, or even physical aggression. It can also happen online, known as cyberbullying.

What might seem like harmless teasing to one child could actually feel like intimidation to another. It’s important to understand that the effects of bullying can vary from person to person.

Let’s break it down so that younger children can understand the different types of bullying and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

‘Bullying is when a person or group of people keep doing things to you that make you feel hurt, upset or frightened and you cannot stop this from happening. Bullying can happen online or offline’ 

Bullying is when these things happen again and again to someone: 

  • Being ignored, left out on purpose, or not allowed to join in 
  • Being made to be afraid of getting hurt 
  • Being made fun of and teased in a mean and hurtful way 
  • Lies or nasty stories are told about them to make other kids not like them 
  • Being hit, kicked or pushed around  

Talking with your children about being bullied 

Talking with your child about being bullied can often be very difficult and it helps to be aware of your child’s needs and feelings. 

A child needs to: 

  • Feel heard and believed
  • Talk openly about what is going on
  • Develop trust that the adult he/she tells will help him/her
  • Feel that there is some hope things will get better
  • Feel some control over the situation
  • Learn self-protective and assertive behaviours
  • Build or maintain confidence and self-esteem. 

Helpful parent responses 

If your child tells you about being bullied: 

  • Believe your child because it is important that they feel confident to talk to you about their problems. 
  • Take the child’s concerns seriously without being over protective. 
  • Listen to your child. Show you understood that he/she is upset by the bullying. 
  • Encourage your child to talk about the situation. 
  • Tell your child that bullying is wrong and remind your child that he/she has the right to feel safe and happy. 
  • Make an appointment for both of you with your child’s school to discuss the problem. Develop a plan to address the bullying in consultation with the school and your child. 
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