Clinical Therapist * Mental Health Specialist * Media Expert

When Your Child is the Bully: Making a Plan for Better Coping

THIS WEEK’S PARENT TRAP…

My daughter is 12-years-old and until recently I believed she’d been having a relatively good school year. It’s now the end of the school year and the principal called my husband and I in to let us know that the school has been concerned about her. They claim that she’s been bullying a couple of her peers – one of them is her closest friend. I had no idea this was happening, and I’m angry that I wasn’t told sooner. Now the administration has asked me to take her to counselling, but we really can’t afford it. I’m wondering what we can do at home to solve the issue?

Jacquie, Burnaby

YOUR TWO CENTS…

I can’t imagine why the school would wait so long to share their concerns. I’m guessing she’s going into grade 8 next year so make sure she has a chance to make amends and is left feeling like she’s made a positive contribution.

Karen, Langley

Get the school counsellor involved at the beginning of next year. That way you don’t have to pay for it and they can keep you better informed about any issues at school.

Fraser, Vancouver

MICHELE KAMBOLIS SAYS…

Children face all kinds of challenges with one another and conflict is a natural part of growing up. But when conflict turns into power dynamics, the effects can be downright vicious. The antidote to destructive conflict involves guiding the hearts and minds of our children with strong emotional skills. Empathy is an important part of our children’s emotional lives, and lack of it can lead to difficult times. Bullying is one of those.

The first route to empathy involves turning your compassion towards your child.

Make it clear that you’re not mad; your daughter is not ‘in trouble.’ By being supportive, helping her to understand, identify and work through her feelings, you help her become more self-aware. She will be able to consider the impact she’s having on others. Help her imagine difficult situations that may arise in the future, and how she wants to handle them differently. She can visualize the outcome she wants to create. Draw a picture of it, create a story about it and most importantly help her make a plan for better coping.

Then get to know her mindset. Children who turn against others often feel confused and victimized themselves; they may struggle with faulty thinking, a belief that others are out to get them, don’t like them or have purposefully caused harm to one of their friends. Helping them to challenge that mindset can leave them more internally calm and less on the attack.

Finally, tackle the topic with many heart-to-heart discussions. I say many because developing the heart and mind involves a daily family practice of gratitude, caring and being responsible for others. It is discovering and embodying tolerance and self-awareness.

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