What to do if your teen is being bullied

There are lots of ways to find common ground with your teen if you think they are being bullied.

“My daughter started high school this year. She has been skipping classes and she says she doesn’t fit in. When I ask what’s going on, she won’t talk about it much. I think she’s being bullied – how do I help her?”
For your daughter, this is a time of significant identity formation," explains Dr Ainsleigh Cribb-Su’a, a senior clinical psychologist in South Auckland and member of the advice panel for the Common Ground youth mental health initiative.
"The fact she hasn’t opened up doesn’t mean she doesn’t want your help. It’s most likely a defence strategy to avoid feeling the negative emotions associated with the situation.
"Assure her you are willing to listen when she is ready,” says Ainsleigh. “We know that if a young person opens up for the first time and feels listened to and validated in their feelings, they are more likely to seek help again in the future.”
Renee Haiu is a counselling coordinator with Youthline and fellow panellist for Common Ground, an initiative of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project that aims to give parents, caregivers, whānau and friends access to information on how to support young people going through tough times.
She says it is important to choose a good time and place to talk, and to take a non-judgmental stance.
“Be open to the experience the young person is having and put any critical tendencies aside,” she says.
“Show respect by listening carefully, providing warmth and support, and highlighting the positives. Once the conversation is underway, the next step is to work with your daughter to find a way out of being bullied."
Encourage her to adopt behaviours that can stop bullying, such as telling the bully to stop, walking away or ignoring them or trying to act unimpressed, suggests Renee.
Key anti-bullying tactics for parents and caregivers
1.Go with your child to talk to a teacher, dean or counsellor at the school.
2.Support them to make a complaint to the police if physical violence or threats have been made.
3.Approach the parents of the bully to try to get them to help put a stop to the behaviour.
4.Focus on your child’s positive attributes to increase their confidence and self-esteem.
5.Keep the lines of communication open and always listen with a non-judgmental ear.
6.Seek help from someone experienced at dealing with bullying – for example, a Youthline or Skylight counsellor.
For more helpful tips and support, visit Specific information about bullying can be found at the Pink Shirt Day website, visit
Counsellors are available from Skylight (0800 299 100) and Youthline (0800 376 633) or text Youthline for free at 234.