Written by Kait Fowlie
Bullies, just like the trauma they inflict, come in all shapes and sizes. Mean girls are a tough breed particularly among elementary school age children, who are gaining social independence and trying on new identities. Insecurity can get the best of kids at times, and the results can be devastating.
If your daughter has been dealt a horrible hand in dealing with mean girls at school, she’s likely being forced to face some seriously tough situations that make going to school feel like a nightmare. Here’s what you can do to help her deal with mean girls.
Before any action can be taken by your child, be sure she knows that bullies behavior has nothing to do with her, no matter what the bully is saying or doing. Help your daughter understand the deeper reason behind bullying behaviour. Mean girls say hateful things not because they are the truth, but because of deeper insecurities—they say these things to feel good about themselves.
Approaching the situation from this angle will help your child stay confident, and even develop compassion for the mean girl. After your child is clear on the fact that they are not at all to blame for the hateful words being tossed at them, here’s what your daughter can do to further deflect a bully:
1. Take back the power. Acting completely unaffected by a bully’s mocking or bullying remarks may be one of the toughest things your kid tries to do, but it’s the key to stopping a mean girl in her tracks. Ignoring or acting bored when confronted and keeping busy with her own favourite subjects and extracurricular activities will help. Shutting mean girls out and focussing on what makes your child feel empowered is the best way to help her stay strong and happy.
2. Walk away. The group mentality among mean girls’ is what makes this brand of bullydom feel more all-encompassing and inescapable, but walking away from the situation offers an opportunity to create an entirely new social environment. Helping your child expand her world by experiencing new things in different areas of her life will give her perspective and help her find supportive allies.
3. Help your child find their voice. In some situations, walking away just doesn’t cut it. Standing up for herself confidently and assertively may become necessary. To help you child feel comfortable doing so, practice at home. Come up with a script that she can say without feeling fake and without fuelling the fire with more aggression. While your daughter may not have control over a bully’s behaviour, she does have control over her response. She’ll feel like she’s got this on lock down if you practice in the comfort of your own space and act out different scenarios.
4. Keep communication lines open. Make sure your home is a safe space where talking about feelings—no matter what they may be—is completely ok. Tell your daughter that you believe that feelings are never wrong, it’s the way we handle them that counts. Show your daughter you believe in her, and will never judge her.
If you know your daughter is dealing with bullies at school, be aware of the signs of depression and anxiety. If you notice changes in her sleeping, eating, or general disposition, bring it up with her in a non-judgemental way.