Sometimes, the hardest thing about getting bullied is not always bullies. There may be people in your life who betray you, or you may have people in your life who want to help but are misinformed. It can be easy to forget bullying not only affects its victims but also affects the people they love. It is not uncommon for loved ones to feel helpless and insecure about how to help. As a result, they may inadvertently say the wrong thing, which results in added stress and isolation.
When I was bullied for the first time at nine years old, I was lost and vulnerable. I thought my family would have all the answers, but it turns out they were just as scared as I was and doing the best they can. Unfortunately, it was not enough for me to defend myself and get rid of the bullies. As a result, I developed low self-esteem and started people-pleasing because the aftermath of bullying went unresolved.
Some advice was more helpful than others, and there was a lot of trial and error. Unfortunately, some of the negative messages I internalized reinforced long-held negative beliefs about myself. I was able to overcome these beliefs when I stopped relying on others to solve my problems and started valuing my own opinions.
Without proper support, the target will take longer to recover. Here are examples of ways families can help:
1) Listen first. Believe your victim. Dismissing concerns is the worst thing you could do.
2) Deal with your emotions away from your victim. Overreacting will add unnecessary stress. Stay calm. Talk about your concerns with a neutral, trusted individual if necessary.
3) Keep your fears in check. Fear can cloud judgment and drive you to say or do something ineffective.
4) Empower your victim by offering multiple solutions. Then, help your victim choose the solution that fits best with his or her personality.
5) Discourage your victim from ignoring the perpetrator. Ignoring bullies is not going to make them go away; it’s only going to get worse. I wish people understood this.
6) Avoid shaming your victim. Victims already feel shameful and helpless about their situation. Instead of adding to their shame, offer solutions.
7) Help them assess their social circles. The victims need to be friends with people who celebrate them and not tolerate them. It may mean the victim has to be alone until they find the right people.
8) Help them build their confidence. Help them find a hobby they are passionate about, and where they can find a community of like-minded people.
9) Be patient. It will take victims time to recover.
10) Take care of yourself. Set boundaries, if necessary. Bullying is hard on the victims and the people who love them.
What are your experiences with support? What advice would you add? I would love to hear your comments below.