How do I talk to my child about difficult topics like bullying or peer pressure?

In today’s world, parenting a child is not an easy job. It has to include a delicate balance between being your child’s friend and giving them the right amount of freedom. Children these days are exposed to a lot more of the outside world from a young age as compared to previous generations with the advent of the internet and access to social media from their early years. A timeless challenge for parents of all generations has been addressing the topics of peer pressure and bullying with their children. For any parent, it is a natural instinct to be protective of their offspring and worry about their social and mental well-being. This worry has been amplified in today’s generation with the exposure the kids get. In India, the societal expectations and stigma around mental health also add a level of complexity to identifying and addressing these situations. Therefore, it is paramount to address these topics in a safe and encouraging manner in order to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. In this blog, we provide you with a guide on how to navigate this complex process in an easy and effective manner to ensure the best results for you and your children. 


Safe Environment


In India, children face a lot of societal pressure as well as familial pressure. Most kids live with the feeling that a lot of people have expectations of them, especially to attain academic success. Therefore, the first step to establishing a conversation with your children is to ensure they are aware that it is safe for them to open up. Many times, the child is afraid of letting their parents down, whereas there is no pressure from your side. There is also a rampant fear of punishment in kids in our country, so making them aware that there is no need to worry about being judged is also impertinent. In addition to this, setting aside your phone and other distractions when you open dialogue and ensuring the environment is quiet, private and comfortable for your child is important.

Build Trust

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, even a parent-child one. It is the most important thing in establishing open and honest communication. Therefore, it is important to make your child aware that they can share anything with you and that they are understood. Some of the things you can do to ensure your child trusts you are available are to listen actively and not judge them. 

Recognise the Symptoms

In order to effectively address bullying or peer pressure, as a parent, you must be able to recognise the signs of these things and how they manifest in your child. In India especially, children are more shy or sometimes even scared to come and open up about these things. Therefore, parents need to be vigilant in spotting the symptoms by themselves. Some of the visible signs of bullying and peer pressure are:

Behavioural Changes:

Withdrawal, aggression, or a decline in academic performance, displaying no desire to do the activities your child once enjoyed are all signs that there is a problem in their environment. In some cases, it may be a sudden and unexplained change; for example, one day, suddenly, your child does not want to go to school anymore.

Physical Symptoms:

Unexplained injuries, frequent headaches, or stomachaches can be indicators of stress caused by bullying. If your child is experiencing chronic aches, which are not related to a medical condition they have since before, they are most likely stressed by a bully or by peer pressure.


Emotional Distress:

If your child is not one to be anxious and shy but suddenly starts acting strange and does not want to partake in activities the way they would normally do, it is a strong indicator of emotional distress. Do not ignore these signs. 


Making your child aware

Discuss and explain what bullying and peer pressure are to your child. Give them examples of physical, verbal, and cyberbullying. You can also practice role-playing scenarios to explain what it looks like. Encourage your child to speak up if they are experiencing any bullying in their social circles. Teach them how to handle bullying by speaking up, seeking help, and avoiding retaliation. Also, ensure to explain to them how peer pressure can influence a person’s behaviour. You can also build their self-esteem by praising their individuality and teaching them polite but firm ways to say no to peer pressure.

A crucial step in this process is to touch base with your child and maintain healthy and open communication lines throughout so that you are aware of what is going on in their lives and can intervene if necessary. 


Seek Professional Help


Despite your best efforts, professional intervention may be necessary to address some children’s bullying and peer pressure problems. If the case is very severe, there is no shame in seeking help. In fact, intervention by a counsellor or psychologist at an early age can prevent many problems from manifesting in harmful ways in your child. Find a child psychologist or counsellor experienced with bullying and peer pressure; school or paediatrician recommendations can help. Your child’s school may be able to provide you with resources that will equip you to get your ward the correct help.