Can you spot the signs? And what can you do? For National Anti-Bullying Week, Anna Ceesay from the charity Kidscape has some tips to cope.
Children do not always ask directly for help or discuss their concerns openly. When bullying is involved, they may feel at fault or anticipate that there will be negative repercussions if they tell an adult.
Changes in a child’s behaviour and body language cannot indicate for certain that bullying is happening. However, the following signs will certainly tell you that something may be wrong.
• Unexplained injuries
• Lost or broken possessions
• Low self-esteem
• A loss of friends
• Withdrawing from social situations
• Change in attitude or behaviour
• Difficulty sleeping or bed wetting
• Truanting or feigning sickness
• Declining grades and a lack of interest in school
• Self-destructive behaviour
• Refusal to talk about what is wrong.
Supporting a bullied child
It goes without saying that parents want to protect their children from harm and see them develop into healthy, happy adults. It can therefore be extremely difficult to witness the effect that bullying can have on a child.
The most important thing to remember is that with firm, immediate action, young people can move past bullying and overcome the emotional scars it leaves behind. While individual experiences will influence the way your child is affected, in general, there are some universal steps all parents should take to support their child through bullying.
Have an open conversation
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, or they have already told you of an incident, the first thing to do is have an open conversation. Try to follow these guidelines:
Speak in private
Find a quiet time when you won’t be disturbed to discuss the different types of bullying. Ask if they have ever experienced or witnessed any of the examples and encourage them to give specific details.
Be patient, calm and understanding
Do not make assumptions or interrupt. Put your feelings aside and really listen to what your child is telling you.
“Telling a child to ignore the bullies or dismissing the experience as just ‘a part of growing up’ will not stop the bullying. These messages teach them that bullying should be tolerated rather than confronted.”
Make it clear that the bullying is not their fault and praise them for being brave enough to confide in you. Assure them that now you know what is happening, the issues can be resolved.
Give support and trust
Let your child know that you will need to talk to the school, but promise not to take action without discussing it with them first. Openly explore the options together, and come to an agreed course of action.
Teach them how to cope
Bullies often ‘test’ potential targets to gauge how they respond, and while the target is never to blame, those who appear the most vulnerable usually continue to be bullied. It is for this reason that alongside reporting to the school, teaching your child how to be assertive can be the most effective way to help them.
The skills explained on the Kidscape dealing with bullying page offer young people practical, non-confrontational ways to deal with bullies. With practice, these techniques can not only prevent them from being targeted, but will give them the confidence and independence to tackle potential bullying situations in a positive way that inhibits escalation.
If your child is aged nine to 16 they may also benefit from attending ZAP, our assertiveness workshop for bullied children and their parents. More information and details on how your family could benefit can be found here.
It can be very overwhelming when you are faced with the reality that your child is coming to harm. In order to respond effectively and give your child the support they need, it is important that you put aside any anger or assumptions. Please bear in mind the following:
Do not act aggressively
Storming into the school or confronting the bully will be the reaction your child has been dreading, and will often make the bullying worse.
Do not dismiss their experience
Telling a child to ignore the bullies or dismissing the experience as just ‘a part of growing up’ will not stop the bullying. These messages teach them that bullying should be tolerated rather than confronted. The effects of bullying can be devastating, so it is imperative you give your child the appropriate help.
Do not promote retaliation
Instructing a child to fight back will not solve any issue but only promote a cycle of bullying. It is likely to place your child in further danger, or result in the school labelling them as the problem. Refer to our advice above for positive ways your child can deal with bullying behaviour.
Kidscape equips young people, parents and professionals with the skills to tackle bullying and safeguarding issues across the UK.4984 Views