Step-by-step: Help your son recover after bullying

Parents – how to move your son from victim to survivor to veteran

It’s really important that you understand the process, and what you are aiming for… Otherwise you will accidentally sabotage his recovery.

So much of what people do for victims of bullying actually keeps them as victims. Your son has had his power stripped from him, and your goal is to have him pick that up again.  Until he understands that he does have power and he does have choices and a future, he will not recover. Even giving him the label “bullying victim” cripples his recovery… Because it tells him that he doesn’t have power.  Choose different labels, such as “Young man who is bouncing back from bullying”. 

See bullying as events… not an identity

Start viewing the bullying as a series of specific events that were unplanned, unfortunate, a great experience, something that will be very valuable in his future. Remember events don’t mean that you are broken or that there is something wrong with you, rather events just are things that have happened.

Help your son distinguish between bullying events and the emotions he feels

We need our son to see the difference between the specific events that have occurred and what he has decided that those events mean about himself.


FACT: people saw me get punched in the face and they did not help.

FICTION: everybody thinks I’m such a useless loser that they don’t care if I get hit in the face.

The facts are much easier for your son to deal with when he can take the fiction out of them and when he can separate the meaning from the e

Helping our son deal with his fears of school or future bullying

again it’s really important to help our sons have a healthy perspective when they fear future bullying or bullying re-occurring. It is easy for our sons to imagine that the world is less safe than it actually is. It’s important for our son to challenge his own fears and to evaluate how realistic his fears are, because that leads to freedom.

Your son needs ‘social credibility/currency’ with his peer group

Yes, it’s great if he is good at playing the violin, but if you have a choice between him becoming good at violin, or good at football, choosing to become talented at football gives him more social credibility.  You don’t want him to sell out his personality to get social credibility, but you do want to make some wise deliberate choices.   

Your son needs to learn to overcome adversity, not just be sheltered from it.

We need to accept that our son will be subject to the unfair behaviour of others (even though it hurts to watch). We need to accept that our son will experience hurtful and sad things.  We can’t shelter our children from all the negative things in the world. What we can do is to equip our sons with the skills and attitudes that help them overcome adversity and every challenge that they face… And bullying is just one example of this. 

Ignoring the pain and damaged confidence makes recovery harder – Address it.

It’s really important that we help our sons face up to the pain and push through it because hiding from the sense of failure they feel and failing to address that internal pain leads to really negative consequences later on. Alcohol/drugs/obsessive about computer games/etc is an escape. Some escapes are harmless and some will seriously mess you up.  Choose harmless escapes.  In the short term they can help. In the long term you will need more than just escapes.

Set some goals (and plan your steps to get there)

He needs to set goals to take his mind off the past and put it on the future, where he needs to be focused to grow. Heeds some achievable short, medium and long-term goals.  Needs to break those goals into steps or actions. Need to get started on the first steps of those goals. A goal without the first step taken is actually just a wish or an unrealistic dream.

Develop own character/future self

Your son needs to develop his character (who he really is inside as someone who contributes selflessly), not just his image (most boys think that if they change their image – then they will be safe, but it doesn’t work). Also, your son’s character isn’t about who we is now… It’s about who he wants to be. When he can put words on who he wants to be and have a clear picture of the sort of man he wants to grow into, then he will have a healthier self-esteem because he is viewing himself as his future, stronger self rather than the weaker self he was in the past.

Helping our son get some perspective about his bright future

We need to help our son gain perspective about his life and the fact that he has a bright future. He can learn that and feel more optimistic and often it comes down just to choosing to feel grateful for what is going well in life and looking for ways to contribute to others. This is a reality check that a lot of our kids need.

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