Bullying is a horrible thing to have to endure and sadly, something that seems to have become more common in the last ten years. Bullying can have significant negative consequences for the victim of the bullying and can impact their self-esteem, mood, concentration and school performance. In more severe cases, it can also lead to psychological problems over time. It is a heart-breaking experience to see your child being bullied. Sadly, we cannot be with our children 24 hours a day to protect them from the bullies. However, there are some ways that we can support them as parents and help them to manage the bullying when it occurs.
What is Bullying?
It is normal for kids to experience some teasing or banter from their peers or siblings some time in their life. This is usually done infrequently, in friendly way and tends to be reciprocated as it is a way for the children to bond and have a laugh together. However, when this is done with spite, in an unkind way and done constantly, it becomes bullying. Bullying involves intentionally trying to hurt someone either through physical, verbal or emotional harm. Physical bullying can involve hitting, kicking, shoving and damage of property.
Verbal bullying involves threats and name calling; and emotional bullying involves deliberately excluding someone, neglecting them and spreading rumors about them. With the rise of the internet and smart phones, another form of bullying has emerged. Cyber bullying involves bullying through text message, or on the internet through chat rooms, social media or message boards. This type of bullying is particularly harmful as it can often be more severe than other forms because bullying online offers the perpetrator the opportunity to remain anonymous. It also makes it difficult to escape due to the availability of technology. Due to the significant detrimental impact that ongoing bullying can have on the mental health of the victim, it is important to take it seriously and provide support to your child around this.
How will I know my Child is being Bullied?
Your child may disclose to you that they are being bullied. If so, it is wonderful that they felt comfortable to do so. However, sometimes they don’t feel comfortable disclosing this to others and may try to “tough it out” themselves. If they don’t tell you directly, it can be hard to know they are being bullied. There are some warning signs that you can look out for though. These include:
- A drastic change in your child’s behavior. They may seem anxious, have problems sleeping or might not want to eat.
- Frequent irritability.
- Trying to avoid school or other commitments.
- Withdraw from their friends.
- Have signs of being physically attacked without explanation for those signs (such as damaged clothing or cuts or bruises).
- A drastic drop in grades.
- Have lots of their belongings go missing.
- Complain regularly of feeling sick, particularly before school.
How can I Help?
- Talk to them – Have an open conversation about what you have noticed and let them know you are concerned for them and want to help. If you feel they will be reluctant to talk to you about it, try and approach the discussion from another angle. A way you may be able to do this is start the conversation after watching something similar on a TV program or in a movie. You can ask them their thoughts of what is going on and if they have ever experienced this themselves. You can even use examples from your own life.
- Help them build resilience – Resilience is the ability to manage with the stressors of life. The good days and the bad while being able to cope emotionally. Building resilience can not only increase your child’s ability to cope with the bullying, but will also help them to manage any future stressors.
How to Build Resilience and Assertiveness:
- Love – When you spend time with your child, pay attention to their strengths and positive characteristics. Try not to “lay it on” to the point where you seem to be patronizing them, but also try and continue to show them love and praise when they are at home. Think of this as “filling their bank” after the bullying has emptied it.
- Give them space – If they don’t seem to be connecting with the peers around them, try and introduce them to other groups. Give them the chance to meet new people and develop new friendships.
- Listen – Listen to them when they do open up to you about how they are feeling, try and work out ideas together to tackle the bullying.
- Teach them assertiveness – Show them how to be respectful to others. Explain to them that they are deserving of the same respect as others.
- Model – Model good conflict management skills at home and show them how to be respectful to others. If they or their siblings are involved in bullying behavior at home, teach them that this is not acceptable and provide other opportunities and examples of how they may resolve their differences.
Providing your child with the support and guidance above will certainly help build them up to be in a better place to adjust to the bullying they are experiencing and eventually show the bullies that their behavior is unacceptable. However, it is very common for children to experience mental health concerns as a result of severe bullying. If you feel as though your child may be depressed or experiencing significant mental health concerns, it is important that you contact your local doctor or mental health professional to gain access to online therapy support.