Dear Your Teen:
I know my son is being bullied, but he is afraid of retribution so he won’t tell me anything and he won’t let me get involved either. He begs me, “Mom, please don’t make it worse.” I am very worried, what should I do?
One educator shares his advice below about what he thinks this mom should do. He suggests that her son’s fear of retribution points to underlying anxiety issues that would be best resolved by a professional who is trained in earning a child’s trust quickly. With professional help, both the mother and her teen will have additional resources and confidence when addressing the bullying at school.
Overcoming the fear of retribution
The fear of retribution can be paralyzing to students. In these cases, using trusted adults can help, but more often than not a level of fear that is preventing the teen from allowing you to help will require the assistance of a professional counselor or psychologist. These individuals are trained to build trust and rapport with kids quickly, such that they begin to disclose information that would not otherwise be shared with adults.
While it will take some time, a good counselor can help your teen or tween disclose information about the bullying, thereby allowing you to successfully intervene, in partnership with the counselor.
This can be a challenging situation for any parent. In these situations, it is important to ask the teenager: “Are you afraid of this person, or afraid to go to school because of the bullying?” And, “Do you feel unsafe at school when this person is around?” If the answers to these questions are affirmative on the part of your teen or tween, the parent must seriously consider intervening, despite the protests of the child.
Jason Culp is the Head of Upper School, at Lawrence School in Cleveland, Ohio.