Bullying is a big deal, but teens who are being bullied aren't always the most forthcoming. Bullying can be humiliating, and when teens are trying their best to grow up and not feel like children any more, sometimes it's not a topic they know how to bring up. Yet it's important for parents to talk to their teens about bullying so that their teens don't feel alone or as if they have nowhere to go.
Let Them Know What Bullying Is
Making sure your teens understand what bullying is should be one of the first steps in your communication. Everyone seems to have a different viewpoint on what is or is not bullying, but your teen needs to be able to grasp that it's the perception of the victim that matters. So if he or she feels picked on, hurt, physically harmed…victimized in any way…that they're feeling bullied. They need to understand that sometimes bullying is a one time situation that can be remedied by time. At other times, and this is when it is far more serious, the bullying lasts a long time.
They also need to understand that bullying has serious consequences. Teens who are bullied are often depressed. They have lower test scores and poorer performance in school. Sometimes bullying even leads to suicide. This can affect them long-term. They need to understand that bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes grownups bully teens, too. It's all about feeling a loss of power.
Hazing is also an organized form of bullying that can be hard for teens to understand. Sometimes hazing starts off as just a joke. It can feel at first like a rite of passage one "has" to go through to join a team, club, or some other organized group. However, hazing isn't acceptable. Everyone has a right to say no. Hazing has been known to be harmful in many situations.
Let Them Know You're There for Them
Once they understand what bullying is, they need to also grasp that you are always there for them if they feel bullied. Teens need to feel unconditionally loved when they feel victimized by others. Yet, sometimes parents can be the hardest of all to talk to about feeling victimized. Make sure they know what their resources are. They can go to a youth leader or pastor. There are teachers and other adults who understand.
Teens should always have contact numbers on them in case they need to talk. Besides their parents, they should have the school phone number or even the church. More resources are better than none. There are even hotlines they can call if things get really bad:
Emergency situation: Call 911
Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-TALK (8225)
Guide Them in the Right Direction
Even if your teen doesn't ever feel bullying, they have a responsibility to prevent bullying, too. Jesus was an example of how everyone deserves love and respect. If we are truly followers of Jesus, bullying should not be part of our repertoire. We are the ones who should be first in line to stand up to bullies, even as they bully those around us. So, ask your teen to get involved to prevent bullying. The end of bullying starts with them.
So how do they put a stop to bullying? It starts with being aware of what's around them. They need to keep their eyes open, and they need to be willing to call out their friends when they're being mean. It also means thinking about what we say before we say it. This includes things we put on the internet. Teens today do a lot of communication via texts, emails, Facebook posts and more. We need to think before we type.
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