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Talking About Bullying With Your Kids

Talking About Bullying With Your Kids

talking about bullyingWith Pink Shirt Day less than a week away on February 26, 2014, many of us are thinking about bullying. We know that we don’t want our kids to bullied, or to bully others. We hear the news stories about the dangers, and how they’re changing in this highly-connected age. But how do we talk to our children about it? And when do we start? If you need help talking about bullying with your children, we’re here to help. Today we have a few tips to help you start the conversation, as soon as your kids are old enough to share a few words about their day with you, and continuing for years.

Tips for Talking About Bullying With Kids

1. Ask Open-Ended Questions

When you’re asking your kids about their day, use open-ended questions. For example, you might say, “Tell me one good thing that happened at preschool today,” or, “Who did you sit beside at snack time?” By sticking to questions that kids can answer easily, you’re encouraging them to share what’s going on with them. This will help you to get a clearer picture of what’s happening at school, and whether there’s anything to be concerned about.

2. Validate Feelings

When our kids are going through something tough, sometimes we want to make it better for them by downplaying what happened. For example, we may tell our daughter that a boy in her class is teasing her because he likes her. This may be true, but that doesn’t make the teasing behaviour okay. Instead, make sure that your child knows that whatever they’re feeling is valid. If our kids know we’re taking them seriously, they’ll feel safer sharing their feelings with us.

3. Model Empathy

Small children don’t know how their actions impact others. For example, toddlers may bite caregivers or other children as an expression of love, not realizing they’re causing pain. It’s never too early to start modelling empathy, though. When we talk about how other people are feeling and demonstrate acceptance of others, our kids are watching us and learning. Acceptance and empathy not only teach kids not to bully, but also to speak up when they witness another child being bullied.

4. Brainstorm Problem-Solving Strategies

Whether your child is acting out against other kids, or being targeted by someone in class, you can help by brainstorming problem-solving strategies together. If your child is being bullied, you can suggest they walk away, ignore the bully or talk to an adult who can help. If you think your child is bullying someone else, you can talk about what they’re feeling when they act out, and how they can deal with those feelings in more productive ways.

5. Set a Zero Tolerance Policy

Much like modelling empathy, you can teach your kids about bullying by taking a stand against it in your own life. That means explaining to children what bullying is, and that it’s not okay. If you have more than one child, don’t stand by while they bully each other. If you overhear someone making a discriminatory statement, make it clear that’s not okay. Talking about bullying with your kids is important, but showing them how to handle it is even more effective.

Talking about bullying isn’t something that you will do once, twice or three times. Rather, it’s an ongoing conversation that you start when your kids are young, so that they develop the tools they need as they grow. It’s not always an easy conversation to have, but it’s very important, and our kids are worth it!

For more tools to help you talk about bullying, and handle it when it happens, visit To hear one mom’s perspective on this BC government tool, read what Danielle Christopher had to say.

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