How to Talk to Parents About Bullying

A girl looks sadly at the camera while being bullied by her classmates.

By Jessica Vician

Bullying has been a prevalent topic in recent years, as the number of youth suicides have increased. NPR reports that the suicide rate has tripled in girls between the ages of 10 and 14 in the last 15 years. Now cyberbullying has taken the behavior out of school hallways—where staff can monitor it—and moved it online, where neither school staff nor parents can see it.

With those sobering statistics, it’s critical that your school take advantage of National Bullying Prevention Month to engage parents in addressing the social and emotional problem of bullying.

Why parents?
Your students’ parents influence and monitor their children’s behavior outside of school, so you must include them in any anti-bullying efforts and/or programs. Parents can steer identified bullies away from that behavior and can help bullying victims learn to stand up to the bully and report the inappropriate behavior. 

While we know it’s important to prevent bullying in any capacity before it overtakes a student’s social, emotional, and physical well-being and upsets their academic development, it’s sometimes difficult to guide parents to address it with their children since each scenario, reason for the bullying, and response from the victim is different.

We must help parents understand just that—that bullying isn’t a simple problem with a formulaic cure or treatment plan. In over 15 years of working with schools and parents through the YOU Program, we have found that helping parents understand problems their children are facing and how to address their behaviors works best when they hear experiences from other parents.

How can the school help parents and, in turn, students?
Step up your bullying prevention plan by hosting a parent meeting or workshop this month dedicated to bullying. Bring parent advocates who have faced bullying through their children, including parents of students who were bullied and parents of students who bullied others.

Let them tell their stories:

  • How did they find out their child was a bully?
  • What did they do to address and change their child’s behavior?
  • How did they find out their child was a victim of bullying?
  • What changed in their child’s behavior?
  • How did they and their child address and/or report the bullying?
  • What happened to the bully?
  • How is the child doing now?

You might even have student alumni who would be willing to speak to these parents or even your students about their experiences being bullied or as a former bully.

Hearing the stories directly from those impacted and learning what worked and what didn’t work when trying to fix the problem will make a strong impact on your students’ parents and help them understand how they can address the issue if or when it arises with their children.