Learning to Be You Again After Bullying
Posted by: Sue Atkins
It’s not easy to get back up quickly and recover from bullying & I should know as I was bullied in my first year of Secondary School and developed Alopecia (where some of your hair falls out due to stress.)
Being a victim of bullying is challenging. But there is life after bullying. Your child just needs to take it slowly and to take their time in rediscovering who they are. It can be all too easy for your child to believe the lies that the bullies have told them and to doubt themselves – for being too shy, too clever, too tall, or not tall enough, or for being different socially, physically, racially or culturally. But you have to teach your children to reject those stories they have been told and to help them learn to appreciate all the things that make them unique, special, individual and wonderful.
Here are steps to help your child to learn to like & trust themselves for being themselves – just the way they are again.
Step 1: Help them understand that their feelings are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.
Even though your child may feel like their life is out of control, that’s it’s a terrifying world, that they are “going mad,” or can’t cope and things will NEVER get better, help them to realise that these are normal reactions to the stress that bullying has put upon them. Help them to see that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way, but make it a goal to help them overcome these feelings with healthy thoughts and positive feelings.
Step 2: Encourage them to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and reactions with people that they trust.
This includes talking with you, their friends, their teachers, their religious leaders, and/or counsellors at school or college – anyone who will be supportive and listen without judging. Don’t let your child isolate themselves or try to keep their feelings inside. That isn’t healthy. It’s like shaking up a bottle of fizzy water and keeping the lid on – the feelings have nowhere to go – so they go inside and that creates ‘dis-ease’ long term and that isn’t good for your child’s mental health or wellbeing. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek professional advice if your child needs it.
Step 3: Create a space where your child can feel safe, secure, relaxed and at peace.
Create a relaxing, cosy space in your home with comfy pillows, so your child can chill out and relax. Think about the lighting & make it ambient and create a place of peace and quiet – a place free from technology. Perhaps it’s a place where they can listen to soothing music, learn to meditate, read, or write in a journal. The point is that they have a place free from the hustle and bustle of life and the outside world where your child can unwind and feel safe. Where they regroup, replenish, recover and rejuvenate.
Step 4: Help your child to understand that they are recovering from a traumatic experience and that takes time.
Talk to your child about the similarities between recovering from an illness and how it takes time to get better and stronger and to recover from a bullying experience. Encourage them to rest, eat healthily, enjoy exercise that releases their feel-good endorphins and recover naturally – let them know it takes time and that’s OK.
Step 5: Help them to resume their normal activities, hobbies, interests and routines.
Don’t allow your child to stop doing the things they loved just because they were bullied. That is letting the bully win and that’s what the bully wanted – to have power over your child’s life. Be sure your child stays involved in the activities, hobbies, interests and routines that they enjoy as that makes them feel good about who they are. Don’t let a bully take those things away from your child and rob them of what they enjoy.
Step 6: Make sure that you report the bullying to the proper authorities
Don’t take bullying lying down. Make sure you, or your child, report the bullying to the proper authorities. Make an appointment to speak to the right person at your child’s school. Strike when the iron is cold – not in temper. Children always worry that you will make the situation worse but done with forethought and planning you will protect others from possible bullying and help the healing process for your child. Write down the things you want to say in bullet points to keep you focused, not emotional and if there’s something your child needs in order to move on, speak up and ask for it. This is important for your child to feel empowered about taking control over their life again.
Step 7: Help your child develop an awareness of their emotional triggers.
When your child has been bullied, it’s not uncommon for them to to feel anxiety in their tummy for no apparent reason. It could be that something unconsciously has triggered a memory. It could be a place, or something your child saw, heard, felt or smelt that is linked to their bullying experience and it triggers a negative reaction. There’s no need to panic – just make a mental note of what is causing these feelings to rise up again. I use Emotional Freedom Technique or ‘tapping’ to alleviate and reduce these reactions with the children I work with, but if they do occur, help your child to breathe deeply and help them reframe the experience and help them to engage in positive self-talk or an empowering mantra to change how they feel. Over time this will help to reduce the anxiety triggers.
Step 8: Avoid engaging in victim-thinking.
Try not to allow your child to label themselves as a ‘victim’ Allowing your child to dwell on what happened to them, by reliving it over and over again, keeps your child stuck in ‘victim-mode’ rather than champion-mode. Remember, your child doesn’t have to forget what happened to them but don’t let it define them, or let it control them, or constantly dominate their thoughts. They need to be able to let the past stay in the past and move forward positively with emerging confidence.
Step 9: Find a deeper meaning to what happened.
While it is true that a bully victimised your child, the experience mustn’t be allowed to define who your child will become. I actually think being bullied led to me running my Confidence Classes for Kids Workshops and definitely led to me writing the ‘Can Do Kid Journal for Super Heroes.’ Take the experience and grow from it and try to help your child discover what they learned about themselves in the process. Are they stronger than they thought? Are they more resilient? Have they learned to be more assertive? Why not record your child’s thoughts and ideas in my ‘Can Do Kid Journal for Super Heroes? No experience is wasted if we learn to grow from it. You never know, your child might be able to use those insights and experiences to help someone else one day.
Step 10: Be patient.
Remember, healing takes time. Recovery has ups and downs. Your child will have good days and bad days. It may be three steps forward and two steps back but remember, recovery is a process, not an event and it can take as long as it takes to get over a major event in life. Focus patiently on building your child’s resilience and confidence. In the end, your child is going to be a stronger, wiser and more resilient version of themselves with your help. Of course no one would have chosen this gruelling experience to happen to your child but turn the tables on the event and use the experience to help your child to grow, learn and rise like a phoenix from the ashes so that they can soar.