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Caring for a Bullied Teen

Has your teen been bullied at school, online, or elsewhere? Bullying is one of the most serious epidemics affecting our schools and students today. Very few kids make it through the teen years without being bullied at school, online, or elsewhere! In this article, I’ll share six practical things parents can do to care for a child who has been hurt by others.


6 Ways To Care for a Bullied Teen

(1) Acknowledge your teen’s pain. You can’t help fix what you won’t acknowledge. If your teen tells you that he’s being mistreated, don’t assume it’s no big deal. Even small hurts can make a big impact in a teens’ life. I urge you to take them seriously. Ask questions and listen to find out what’s really going on. Teens can be mean and that hurt goes deep. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.” Acknowledge the hurt, show empathy, and express genuine concern for your teen.


(2) Affirm your teen. Teens today hear a lot of negativity in school, in sports, and online. Now is the time to affirm and encourage your hurting teen. I know parents tend to think their teens are not listening to what they say. But the truth is your words are powerful in your teen’s life. Let your words build him up at a time when he is hurting the most! Your teen needs a safe place to relax and rest from the world. By giving him encouraging words, you are making yourself a safe place, and you will deepen your relationship with your teen.


(3) Allow time for healing. Parents don’t like to see their kids in pain. It’s easy to want to push your teen forward and push past the pain of bullying. But deep wounds don’t heal overnight. Perhaps you still remember what it felt like to be mistreated at school, and that was a long time ago! So don’t expect your teen to “just get over it.” Address the emotional pain and seek healing, no matter how long it takes. Rushing the process may damage your relationship.


(4) See a counselor. Sometimes hearing from another trusted adult, instead of Mom and Dad, is helpful for a teen. If your teen is having trouble opening up to you, maybe a counselor can help her understand her feelings and move past them. If your teen is showing signs of deeper wounds or even self-harm, you need to get help for your teen immediately. Some teens who are bullied feel the need to punish themselves for not being able to protect themselves. Ultimately, all behavior––good and bad––is goal oriented. There is a reason for your teen’s behavior, and a counselor may be able to help your teen put into words the pain that is deep and hard to talk about.


(5) Consider changes. Sometimes teens need a change. For example, if the bullying happened at school, you may look at your options––switching up the schedule, changing classes, or even changing schools. If the bullying happened online, it may be time to unplug devices, at least for a while. Making changes doesn’t mean you are encouraging your teen to run away from his problems. There are times when it makes sense to “tough it out,” but parents should be willing to consider making positive changes. If you’re not sure what needs to change, then ask your teen.


(6) Connect your teen with a small group. It’s not healthy to go through problems alone. Talking to other teens, who have experienced similar pain, can be helpful. I often encourage parents to find a local group where your teen can share his experience and listen to others who have been hurt similarly. If you’re not sure where to start, this might be something your teen’s counselor can set up.


Hey moms and dads … old-school bullying used to be a one-on-one interaction, but not so much today. Bullying often happens online where hundreds of teens witness the shaming and critical remarks hurled at innocent and wonderful teens. It happens all the time, and your teen can just as easily become the target of someone’s anger and ridicule at school or online. So it’s important for you to keep your finger on the pulse of your teen’s emotional health and remain connected so that you can recognize any shift in their attitude, their mindset, or their demeanor. Be willing and ready to dive into helping your child through a difficult time. The shaming that comes with bullying often carries with it deep damage that can last a lifetime. So do whatever you need to do to prevent it, manage it, and correct its effects.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.