Some experiences of youth are universal. One of the more difficult challenges that all kids encounter is to face or witness bullying. Bullying stems from a power imbalance and can come in a variety of behaviors that can manifest physically, psychologically or emotionally. It can happen in person or online. Bullying is usually repetitive and when unchecked can cause serious harm. Let’s discuss some actions you can take to support your mentee who may be witnessing or personally facing bullying.
Actively listen to your mentee when they tell you about what they are experiencing or witnessing. Recognizing and validating your mentee’s feelings goes a long way towards building or nurturing a trusting relationship. As a mentor, you also model behavior. Be kind to everyone at school! Praise your mentee’s kindness.
Youth are at various stages of learning to advocate for themselves. Keeping this top of mind while discussing strategies for dealing with bullying can be extremely helpful. Something that may seem like a small step to you (like speaking up to a teacher) may feel like an enormous risk to a young person who isn’t used to asking for help. Consider ways in which you can help support them as they learn to advocate for themselves. Offer to accompany them to bring up their concerns to a trusted adult on campus, or ask them to write down their feelings/experience if that is easier. Your goal is to help them on their journey to building confidence so that one day they can stand up not only for themselves, but also for others.
Work with your mentee to find out what resources are available at the school. All campuses have student codes of conduct, and most of them include some sort of anti-bullying rules. This would be a great time to speak with your School Contact, who will be most familiar with the resources available to the school and best equipped to meet your mentee’s needs.
If your mentee is witnessing bullying, work together to come up with ways they can help their peers while staying safe. It can be as simple as making sure no one sits alone in the cafeteria or doesn’t have a partner during class projects. Brainstorm other ways they could safely interrupt the bullying and include the bullied student in their social circle. If none of that is working, collaborate on a plan to discuss the issue with a trusted adult on campus.
Of course, you have one more formidable tool in your toolbox. Remember that your Mentor Director has years of experience working with students of all ages and is always available to help you as you work through any of life’s challenges your mentee may be facing. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them, as they can work with the School Contact to ensure your mentee is getting all the support they need.