Empower young people against bullying
The most common issue young people contact us about is bullying. Bullying can start at a really young age, and can happen both inside and outside of school as well as online.
If you know that a young person is being bullied, the most powerful thing you can do is give them space to be heard.
Other things you can do:
- Allow them to lead the conversation.
- Allow them to feel scared, angry, hurt, lonely – whatever it is that they’re feeling, it’s okay.
- Reassure them that bullying is never okay, that it’s not their fault, and that they’re doing the right thing by speaking up. Encourage them to keep speaking up.
- Ask them questions. What have they already tried? What’s been helping them cope so far? What do they want to do next? What do they feel they can do?
- Don’t assume that you know what the best solution is. Sometimes young people feel like you stepping in will jeopardize friendships or their reputation.
- Allow them to take control of their situation, because bullying becomes a very powerless position. If you allow them the choice and autonomy to do what they want to do, and to explore their options for themselves they can begin to become empowered. They’ll feel that they have more control over the situation.
- If the bullying is happening at school, ask them what their school’s bullying policy is. If they don’t know, talk with them on how they can find out – offer to help, but let them have a go first. Again, this will give them a sense of control over the situation.
- If they’re being bullied outside of school, ask if they know what their options are in that situation. See if they feel confident knowing what to do if they’re ever in danger. Physical bullying can get really serious, and it’s really important that it gets treated like any other physical assault.
- Digitally, there are options for staying safe online. There are privacy and security measures, and there’s blocking and reporting. If you’re stuck on what to do about online bullying, a really great New Zealand resource is the website and phone line netsafe.
- If the young person is not ready or willing to talk with you right now, let that be okay. Sometimes they want out help, and sometimes they don’t. But you could gently suggest that they walk with someone they trust, preferably and adult.
- And most importantly, let them know that you are there if they ever do want to talk.