In our previous post (Bullying Pt 1: Identify), we mentioned some of the warning signs that one of the kids in your small group maybe a victim of bullying. It’s one thing to recognize bullying; it’s another to create an atmosphere where the child feels free to share what’s on his or her heart.
As we Lead Small, one of our roles is to create a safe place and and to help kids clarify their faith as they grow. This means that we’ll have to enter into the tension of what’s happening and help our kids process and work through this difficult time.
Here are a few places to start.
Don’t Do This Alone.
One of the first things to remember is that when a child is being bullied, they are being hurt either physically or emotionally. Each state has different laws associated with who needs to know if this is happening. Contact your staff supervisor. That person will know the steps you need to take to ensure the child’s safety.
Don’t freak out that about what you’re hearing. Staying calm will help the child feel safe and trust you. The trust that you build will be one of the most valuable assets for the child during this time in his or her life.
Be Present and Listen.
When a child is being bullied, they often feel like they have no one who cares about them. They feel isolated and alone. Having someone who supports them and simply listens could make all the difference in the world. If you must ask questions, don’t ask leading questions. Rather, ask questions that generate facts, not exaggerations. Give the child time and space to share their story with you. Don’t rush them. Telling you is one of the most difficult things he or she will do.
Most likely, the bully is targeting something specific about the child causing him or her low self-esteem. While their parents may tell them how great they are, it’s important for you to do the same. Remind them that being bullied is not their fault. Tell the child about the specific ways that God has wonderfully created him or her. If it’s appropriate in your small group, have everyone share something positive about the child (and each other) to encourage them.
Often a child doesn’t know what steps to take to change what is happening to them. Offer to help them talk to their parents about the bullying. Encourage the family to talk with the leadership at school, sports organization, etc. about what is happening. When more of the right people know what is happening, they can be part of the strategy of helping stop the bullying. Offer suggestions to the child about how they can stay safe including: staying with trusted friends and adults on the playground or bus, write down what happened and who was there, change patterns of behavior (when you arrive, leave, what route you take, etc.), or telling someone every time bullying happens.
Creating a safe place for your small group to walk through this together will be one of the most important things you will do for the child who is being bullied. This will not be easy, but it will be worth the effort when you see the child find community and new life among people who care.