Coping With Bullying in Schools

Updated July 11, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Bullying in schools has been a problem for generations, though it has moved into the spotlight over the past several years. While it is often considered a rite of passage, bullying can go too far. Teaching your children how to cope with bullying at school can smooth the journey through their adolescent years. 

Bullying in school can have short- and long-term effects on the bullied child, the bully, and even bystanders. As a parent, you may want to prevent bullying behavior and defend your child from the impact of bullying in school, but it is practically impossible to do so. Instead, try to offer support and teach coping strategies to help them overcome the effects of bullying.

Is Your Child Affected By Bullying In Schools?

What Is Bullying?

According to the American Psychological Association, bullying is a form of aggressive peer behavior involving an imbalance of power where a person intentionally and repeatedly causes another person harm or discomfort. Bullying can take multiple forms. Often, bullied children and adolescents cannot defend themselves and have done nothing to “cause” the person bullying to act.  

What Are The Forms Of Bullying?

Bullying can have the same residual effects in high school or elementary school.

Bullying can appear in many forms, typically, though, bullying takes one of four forms: physical, verbal, relational, and cyberbullying. Recent research shows that up to 29% of students report bullying experiences each year, either as the bully or the bullied.

While the study shows bullying has been on a declining trend for the past two decades, it can occur at every grade level, often peaking during the middle school years and tapering off during the later high school years. Verbal bullying is the most prevalent type, with cyberbullying occurring less frequently than traditional bullying, according to the mentioned research above. 

Physical Bullying

Physical bullying involves actions committed to intimidate and gain control over the target. This bullying involves physical attacks such as hitting or kicking, shoving or pushing, tripping, pinching, and damaging property. It is ongoing and habitual rather than a one-time act to maintain a power imbalance. This form of bullying places everyone involved in immediate danger and can potentially lead to very harmful outcomes for all involved. 

Verbal Bullying

Verbal bullying involves the use of language to gain power over others. For example, insults, threats, and teasing could reinforce the power imbalance. This type of bullying is harder to see and stop, as it often occurs when no adults are around to witness the behavior. 

Relational Bullying

Relational bullying is centered around social exclusion. Rather than inflicting physical harm, this bullying centers around damaging a person’s relationships or social standing. This is often triggered by individuals who may be scared or experiencing difficulties in their own lives. 


Cyberbullying involves harassment, rumors, social exclusion, insults, threats, and other negative bullying behavior via email, text messaging, and social media. It can also include telling intimate details and can cross the line into criminal behavior in some cases. 

Effects Of Bullying In Schools

According to, kids who are bullied often experience adverse effects that could result in physical, emotional, social, academic, and mental health issues. Other students who witness as bystanders but do not take part in bullying may experience an increased risk for alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, increased rates of mental health conditions, and school absence. Both bullied kids and bystanders could benefit from therapy to help them address their feelings and find constructive ways to handle the bullying. 

Kids who bully others are more likely to be angry, abuse drugs and alcohol, get into fights, drop out of school, and have criminal convictions or display abusive behavior as adults. Kids who bully others may also benefit from treatment to address the underlying issues that may cause them to seek power over their peers. 

Typical Effects On Bullied Kids

Bullying can have a wide range of physical and mental health effects, including

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in favored activities
  • Health issues
  • Lower grades

Coping Strategies For Bullying In Schools

Researchers at Georgia State University studied the perceived effectiveness of coping strategies designed for kids who experienced bullying. The study divided coping strategies for bullying into two categories: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. 

Problem-Focused Coping

Problem-focused coping is the use of strategies meant to address the problem directly. It involves a process that begins with thinking about the issue, determining potential solutions on how to respond, and, if appropriate, implementing the chosen solution. It can be easier to make an informed decision about what action to take by assessing the situation. 

Problem-Focused Coping Strategies

Here are some problem-focused coping strategies you or your child may try.

  • Informing a teacher or trusted adult
  • Talking to the bully
  • Thinking about what to do next
  • Weighing the consequences before retaliating
  • Avoiding the bully
  • Walk away from the issue
  • Not giving the desired response to bullying

Emotion-Focused Coping

Emotion-focused coping centers around finding ways to feel safe and control the emotional outcomes that may be triggered by bullying in school. Making a dedicated effort to identify and address the feelings that result from being bullied can make it easier to decide how to handle the situation.

Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies

Here are some emotion-focused coping strategies that may help to diffuse the effects of bullying.

  • Listening to music to calm down
  • Finding a quiet place to cry
  • Practicing deep breathing techniques to relax
  • Writing in a journal
  • Discussing feelings with parents, friends, or a therapist

Is Your Child Affected By Bullying In Schools?

How To Support A Bullied Child

If your child is being bullied, they may already feel a loss of power. It can be helpful to offer them as much control as possible and help them understand they are not at fault. Some parents may choose to have minimal interference in this process while other adults may want to get directly involved as their child learns to deal with bullying. Talk to your child and discuss their options to cope with the effects of bullying. They may choose to ignore the bullying and try to distance themselves from the situation. If they decide to focus on the positive and deny the bully extra attention, you may want to let them try to make that stand. They may lose interest over time by focusing on more important things.  

After speaking with school staff about the incident, a child targeted by bullies may want to talk to a professional for help coping with the effects of bullying in school. Consider online therapy with the licensed therapists specialized in working with teens at BetterHelp as a solution. The asynchronous messaging format allows teens to message their therapists when they feel the need, and many teens said it was helpful to review the messages later on their own.  

“Some parents are unsure where to begin to help defend their children from bullying and violence. Others may not know if their children are victims, bystanders, or even perpetrators of harmful behaviors,” UNICEF researchers said. 

Social Media Bullying

The obscurity of the internet opens users up to potential cyberbullying by people all over the world. On top of that, many times it is a friend of the individual being bullied who is responsible. Report offenders to the social media administrators, block them, and do your best to move on from it. Detachment, distance, and namelessness make even adults feel confident enough to attack others online. Recent research suggests that 59% of teens in the United States have been bullied or harassed online.

Bullying At College

While most adults associate bullying with middle and high school, it can continue into college. Parents of college-age children may want to speak to them about bullying and work to build their self-esteem, assertiveness, and social skills. Confidence and resilience can help your child manage and overcome the effects of bullying. 

What Benefits Does Online Therapy Offer To Bullied Teens?

Adolescents living with the effects of bullying can benefit from receiving online therapy at BetterHelp. Most teenagers are familiar with technology and may find the asynchronous messaging system appealing. Adolescents may feel a sense of control over their treatment because they can message their therapist when they feel the need. 

Traditional in-person treatment tends to be more expensive than online therapy. Many teens have said they prefer online therapy for accessibility, personal space, and the ability to seek support from the comfort of home.

Is Online Therapy As Effective As In-Person Treatment?

A recent study by Cambridge University praised the asynchronous messaging format of online therapy. Adolescents can review their sessions at any time, allowing them to build on previous work and return to lessons as needed. Online therapy with BetterHelp can reduce the stigma attached to mental health conditions by allowing adolescents to seek treatment from home. Virtual sessions may make it easier for teens to open up when they might struggle face-to-face.


It can be difficult to watch your child suffer from the effects of bullying. It is important to be there and support your child as they navigate this turbulent time. Seeking online therapy from the licensed therapist at BetterHelp can make it easier to learn how to cope with the effects of bullying in school.

Adolescence can be a challenging life stage

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