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3 Ways Teens Can Intervene in a Bullying Situation

Dear Your Teen:

How do I encourage my teenager to get involved in stopping a bullying situation? I don’t think it is enough to not be a bully. I want my son to be an upstander — to step in and in some way intervene and help the bullied teenager when it happens. What’s your advice?

Expert | Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

In addition to making it clear to your teen that he should always be polite to all of his classmates, even if he does not particularly like some of those classmates, make it clear that you expect him to take action if witnesses teen bullying in any form.

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3 Ways to Be An Upstander:

1. Reach out to the victim.

He could reach out to the victim of bullying. Perhaps your son could ask the victim to join him and his friends in their activities. Or he could invite them to sit at their lunch table. That can be an effective bullying intervention in and of itself.

2. Stand up to the bully.

He could stand up to the bully, perhaps telling the bully to “give it a rest” or to leave the victim alone. This can be tough for teenagers who may worry that the bully—or one of the bully’s friends—will turn on them. Sometimes, more popular teenagers have more success with this type of bullying intervention than less powerful (socially) teenagers do.

3. Speak up to an adult.

Your son could tell an adult at school (such as a trusted teacher or a school counselor) about the bullying that they’ve witnessed. He should also tell you about it at home.

Make it clear to your son that you expect him to do at least one of these things regardless of how he feels about the teenager who is being victimized.

Lisa Damour, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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