Your child comes home one day and states that they have been harassed by a bully.  Sadly, this is not an unusual occurrence.  As parents, we are often faced with the dilemma of how to address the issue of bullying with our children.  Bullying can be subtle or overt and despite our best efforts to the contrary can be very damaging to the emotional well-being of children.
Encourage your child to advocate for him or her self.  – Have your child share their concern with the principal or assistant principal at school for help to address the bullying issue.Particularly , if bullying is occurring at school. This would also include on the bus to or from school, waiting for the bus, or at school-related events.  Schools across the country are working hard to address these concerns and will be willing to involve the children in addressing the bullying issue.  Follow up with school staff to ensure that the issue is addressed in a timely manner, particularly if your child feels anxious about involving school staff.
Keep your emotions in check – Naturally, as parents, we hurt for our children when they hurt, however, your emotionality will have an impact on your child.  In order to help your child to feel  empowered to address the issue, you both need to manage your emotions about the issue.  If they have the strength of conviction on their side without the intensity of the emotion, they will be better able to cope with the bully.
Empower your child – Teach your child that just because someone says or does something unkind to them, does not make it true.  Tell your child to assert him or herself in a bullying situation and if there is any threats of harm or physical contact from the bully, involve the school or police as appropriate.
Reframe – Teach your child that bullies are often bullied.   Help your child to understand that the bullying comes from a deficiency in the bully that causes him or her to need to degrade others. Let your child know that somewhere in the bully’s life, someone is bullying him or her.  Teach your child to shake his or her head and walk away saying “I’m sorry for you, that you feel the need to tear other people down.”  Taking the high moral ground can be very empowering to a bullied person.  Other examples of what to say to a bully include:“Wow!”  (Your child walks away)“Good luck with that!”  (Your child walks away)Say nothing and walk away Make it a game between you and your child to develop statements that help them cope with the negativity of a bully.  This is a great discussion for car rides.
Bullying cannot be ignored completely and it is not recommended that you pretend the bullying never happened.  Teaching your child to walk away with the thought process that they are above the situation and in control of their own emotions empowers your child.  This strategy combats the negative self-erosion caused by bullying.  It is important for us as parents to clearly state to our children that they are never responsible for the rude behavior of others toward them, then make sure that the bully is being addressed either through school, in the community, or by speaking with the bully’s parent. 
Watch for signs that bullying may be impacting your child in a negative way.  If he or she becomes sad, withdraws from social contact, talks about feeling worthless or hopeless,indicates that they are feeling like hurting themselves or others, begins to bully siblings,reports that they have no friends, or takes any type of self-destructive action, seek out support through counseling for your child.  Bullying can lead quickly to depression and anxiety both of which are very treatable conditions.  We may not always be able to prevent bullying, but we can build confidence and assertiveness into our children by giving them strategies to manage these all too familiar situations.
Janet Myers LCSW  School Social Worker