Bullying is a significant problem for teens in the US. Data from a 2014 meta-analysis of more than 80 studies found that around 35 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 18 experienced some form of bullying in “real life,” while approximately 15 percent were the victims of cyberbullying – or bullying online.
Teens, however, can be reluctant to speak to their parents about bullying at school, leaving it up to you to sniff out the signs.
But what if you miss the signs? What can you do then?
In this article, we’re going to talk about the sobering emotional reality of dealing with the knowledge that your child needed your help, but you were powerless to do anything about it. All parents want to be there for their kids in their hour of need, but sometimes you don’t realize that anything is wrong. It’s only after the fact that you discover your child was being bullied and that you didn’t do anything to help. You could feel guilty or ashamed of yourself.
Start By Forgiving Yourself if you Miss the Signs of Bullying
While it’s true that your child was in need, it’s vital for parents who miss the signs to recognize that it’s not their fault. The blame lies with the school, the bullies, and the parents of the bullies (in some circumstances). You did what you could with the information you had and acted accordingly. It wasn’t your fault that your child was the victim of bullying and decided not to come forward.
Often, forgiving yourself is the toughest part: you believe that you should have been there to defend your child, but the entire event passed you by, and you didn’t know about it. As a parent, you feel as if you should know what your child is experiencing at all times, but when you miss the signs of bullying, you can feel as if you don’t have the powers of perception that you thought you did. It makes you worry that you’re not a good parent.
It’s worth remembering that being a parent is a learning process: you can’t predict or interpret everything that your child says or does with perfect accuracy. You’re human, so there will inevitably be occasions where you get it wrong.
Open Up Lines Of Communication With Your Teen
If you missed the signs of bullying, the first thing to do is to find out why. There are all kinds of reasons why your teen may not have come forward to tell you what was going on, which have nothing to do with you. Speak with your teen about why they didn’t say anything and try to find out whether there is anything you can do to make them more willing to approach you.
If teens are worried about how you’ll react or don’t feel comfortable talking to you about certain subjects, then they may feel like they have to deal with bullying themselves. Your teen, for instance, could worry about how it will make you feel or how you’ll react. Teens could also be reluctant to approach you because they feel ashamed or that they should be “strong” and “stick up for themselves.”
Remind Yourself That Hindsight is 20/20
It’s often easy to see the signs of bullying after the fact. Upon reflection, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place immediately. But while you’re in the midst of it, it can be challenging to come to any firm conclusions about what’s going on in your child’s life.
Be kind to yourself and remind your inner critic that hindsight is always 20/20 and that it’s easy to see things for what they are when you have more information. Remember, at the time that the bullying started, your child’s behavior could have been the result of anything: exam pressure, illness, fear of the unknown, and so on.
Remind Your Teen That You’re There To Help
Teens often remain silent about bullying because they believe that it’s something that they need to deal with by themselves. Furthermore, a young person may not identify bullying for what it is immediately, making it even more critical for parents to step in and provide clarity.
Tell your teen that you’re there to help them through all of their struggles, including bullying, and offer whatever support is necessary. Teens learn a great deal about other people and the world through bullying, but it’s the job of parents to find ways to minimize the harm, including liaising with teachers at the school.
If your child has been the victim of bullying, the best thing you can do is offer support and find ways to prevent it from happening in the future.
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