4 Ways SEL Can Reduce Bullying Incidents in Your School

Everyone is affected by bullying.

Students who bully others are more likely to demonstrate violent or criminal behavior and abuse drugs and alcohol. Victims of bullying can experience depression, loneliness, and anxiety — all of which can last into adulthood. Even students who witness bullying have shown to suffer higher rates of drug and alcohol use, mental health problems, and school absences. Additionally, bullying negatively affects the academic performance of all students involved.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) can help prevent bullying. For students who bully others, SEL can help decrease aggressive and controlling behavior and increase their ability to be respectful and kind. For victims of bullying, SEL can help improve confidence and self-worth and reduce social withdrawal. SEL can also positively transform a school’s climate and culture and help all students learn the skills needed to cooperate, empathize, and form healthy relationships with others.

Here are four ways SEL can help reduce bullying. We hope you explore these lessons, activities, and resources with your students and act against bullying today with SEL!

  1. Build Peer-to-Peer Friendships

Both students who bully and victims of bullying typically have fewer friends than their peers, so they can benefit from learning how to create healthy relationships. SEL teaches students how to respect, empathize, and cooperate with others. It can also increase students’ confidence, social engagement, and relationship skills. Teaching these skills to all students can improve social relationships and reduce negative social hierarchies that promote exclusion, fear, and resentment.

Take Action: There are many resources to help you foster healthy relationships among students. We’ve listed a few of our favorites to get you started.

A Brilliant Activity to Teach Healthy Relationships
Fostering Relationships in the Classroom
Classroom Activities to Help Students Make Friends
Making Friends: 10 Team-Building Games for Students

  1. Create Safe Spaces for Your Students

Some of your students likely come from difficult backgrounds. Low income, poor relationships at home, and domestic violence can contribute to bullying behavior. By involving students in creating a safe, caring environment in your classroom or afterschool program, you can teach them that they have the power to spread kindness — even if it’s lacking in other parts of their lives.

Take Action: This blog does a good job showing educators how they can create safe learning spaces for their students. Included are 12 actionable ways to foster a positive learning environment where all students can thrive.

  1. Teach Empathy

Incidents of bullying are reduced when students demonstrate empathy toward others. Students need to learn how to identify and understand the feelings of others. Strengthening their perspective-taking skills can lead to an increased ability to show kindness and compassion. Increased empathy can also lead to decreased aggressive behavior, both verbal and physical.

Take Action: Try these 26 activities to teach empathy to pre-K through 12th grade students.

  1. Teach Student Bystanders How They Can Help

Students witness acts of bullying every day. Many feel powerless against it. They may not know how to stop bullying or fear that if they act against it, the bully will target them or they will lose social status. To effectively stop bullying, schools need to create a school culture and climate that actively stands against bullying. An important part of this is giving bystanders the skills they need to stand up to bullying.

Take Action: The Australian Safe and Supportive School Communities (SSSC) has compiled Active Bystanders Lesson Plans to help students speak out and act against bullying. Use these lessons to improve students’ social and emotional skills and help them identify bullying and act when they see it.

Bullying is a serious problem in schools, and it has a negative impact on all who are involved. Schools can reduce bullying with SEL. Building students’ social and emotional skills can give students the tools to end bullying and promote a positive school culture where everyone feels valued and safe.

Read more about how SEL can help prevent bullying, or contact our SEL experts to chat about ways you can reduce bullying incidents with SEL.