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Bullying: How You Can Support Your Little Brother or Little Sister

A relationship problem that requires relationship solutions, bullying is a type of abuse that can take different forms at different ages. You’ll find helpful information and useful links in this module.

Whether you and your mentee are in a one-to-one community based match, a site-based or school-based match, or a group mentoring program, you’ll have many opportunities to model and encourage healthy relationships. Your positive approach and attitude will foster resilience in your mentee. You’ll help them cope with challenges, and support their positive development.

  • Provide reassurance and support if your mentee is bullied. Be sure to let them know you believe what they say, and tell them how you’re going to help them. You can also talk with your program staff about bullying and ask them for strategies.
  • Encourage them to report bullying. Remind them that when they’re reporting bullying, they’re doing it to help someone (or themselves), not to create trouble.
  • Discourage bullying and enable healthy behaviour. It’s important to send the message that bullying is unacceptable, but also to provide support when incidents occur. For example, if you observe your mentee bullying someone, you may decide to delay or postpone an activity you’ve planned and instead use the time to discuss their behaviour and to let them express their feelings. Keep in mind - you can't force a conversation - they need to be ready and willing to talk. Also be sure you don't hurt your mentee by cancelling an activity - use your best judgement to ensure you are postive and supportive in addressing the bullying.
  • Foster positive relationships with peers. If you are involved with an in-school or group program, you can support your mentee by involving peers in your activities and interactions.
  • Build on your mentee’s strengths. Many children who are bullied have low self-esteem. If the opportunity arises, help them highlight their talents for other children to see. For children who bully, provide opportunities for them to use their natural leadership skills in a positive way, such as teaching another child a new sport or skill.
  • Praise your mentee when they demonstrate respectful and cooperative behaviour.
  • Use role playing to build confidence. Children who are bullied often have difficulties standing up for themselves. For younger children, doing a role playing exercise where you take on the role of a bully can help build their confidence and increase their assertiveness.
  • Lead by example. Children watch adults’ behaviour closely. If you always act respectfully and use positive conflict resolution strategies, your mentee is likely to adopt similar behaviours. Conversely, if your interactions are critical, demeaning, or aggressive, this can lead them to adopt negative behaviours. As you model positive behaviour, remember to involve your mentee. If they participate in creating boundaries, they’re more likely to support them. Together, you can decide what kind of behaviour is, and is not, acceptable, whether you’re in a group or a one to one setting.
  • Trust Your Instincts. If you suspect a child is being bullied, you’re probably right. Children will often deny bullying out of shame or fear.
  • If you suspect bullying is taking place in the home of your mentee, or if they have expressed concern to you, be there to listen and help. Although volunteer mentors are neither equipped nor expected to prevent bullying in family relationships, you can still support your Little Sister or Little Brother. Thank them for having the courage to come forward and explain that it is their right to feel safe. Gently gather just enough details about the incident so you’re able to respond appropriately (ie speaking with your program staff member). In some situations the behaviour could be abusive and must be reported to your provincial child protection agency.