Research from the American Psychological Association in 2010 shows bullying victims frequently lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, possibly come from negative family, school and community environments, and are rejected and isolated by peers.
Below are some simple practices to strengthen your child’s self worth and connectedness to others to help prevent them from becoming a target of bully.
If the child is having home problems, it is important to improve your relationship with them. If a child feels ignored or rejected by their family, they become more vulnerable to bullying. Expand your child’s network to extended family (e.g., aunts, cousins, grandparents) if available, or people you consider family. Extended family can give a child space from conflict at home as well. It sends the message they are loved and valued by others as well. With family support, a victim strengthens his self-esteem, his ability to take social risks (e.g. making new friends), has the feeling of being protected and safe, and has someone to turn to. Examples would be dad reduces work hours and and takes his child to places and activities which interest the child.
Structured extracurricular activities with other youth can provide young people a safe place to grow social skills, feel part of a group, and master a skill, all of which build high self esteem and are protective factors against mental health problems and bullying.
A community sports team is a great example, given your child has interest and joins a team that matches their skill level. It’s always best to follow your child’s lead and support them in their interests, not yours! Another good example is a social group connected to your family’s place of worship.
Improving Social Skills
Have the child join a social skills group or receive individualized social skills training if they have difficulty socializing. Sometimes children alienate friends unknowingly, sometimes they miss social cues or need help on learning how to listen. Sometimes they need extra support to take social risks, like sign up for a new activity. Have them reduce their screen time and interact offline.
Strengthen the School Community
Does your child have adults at school with whom they are comfortable talking? Does this adult reach out to the child and vice versa? Is there good communication between school and home?
When a child feels supported within its family, at school, and in the larger community they will have a higher self esteem. When they become good at a skill it builds self worth. If their communication and socialization skills lag, they can be learned, just like any other skill.