Bullying can occur at any age, in any environment. It can happen over the long or short-term.
The Department of Education guidelines define bullying as ‘unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time’.
Placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and / or shared by other people is also regarded as bullying behaviour.
Some signs of bullying include:
- Fear of going to school
- Poor or deteriorating schoolwork, inability to concentrate
- Withdrawn behaviour
- Loss of confidence
- Reluctance to go out
- Shortage of money
- Torn clothes, broken glasses, missing schoolbooks
- Repeated signs of bruising and injuries
If your child is displaying some of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being bullied
If you discover your child is being bullied, it is normal for you as a parent to experience a range of feelings. These may include sadness, fear and / or anger.
As parents want their children to feel loved, protected and valued, these feelings are a natural response to an unwanted situation. It is important to acknowledge these emotions. However, if a parent is to become an effective advocate for their child, it is important to develop an action plan.
Some suggestions of things a parent can do to help their child include:
Talk to your child
It is important to provide a warm, safe and supportive space for your child to explore their feelings surrounding the issue. Children may be reluctant to open up about the bullying and will invariably be experiencing a range of emotions.
It is helpful to just listen and refrain from making judgements. Try to obtain as much information about the bullying as possible – for example, how long it has been going on for and who is involved.
Let your child know that it is not their fault and that they are not alone. Explain to your child bullying is never OK and they always have a right to feel safe and respected.
Support your child
After listening to your child, support them to develop a plan. Discuss the various approaches you might adopt to tackle the bullying, such as collaborating with the school.
Developing a plan which utilises your child’s strengths and abilities will help foster resilience and build self-confidence. This plan will need to be shared with others involved in your child’s life such as teachers or coaches. It is also a good idea to build a circle of support around your child. Be willing to bring your child places where new friendships may possibly develop. Resuscitating old friendships may also help reassure your child during this difficult time that there are children / young people who like them.
Your child will be feeling really vulnerable; therefore, some kindness and consideration can work wonders in helping them feel better about themselves. Perhaps you could let your child choose the movie to watch at the weekend or pick a colour of their choosing to paint their room. Kindness has a way of cutting through misery and helping us cope in difficult times.
What if my child doesn’t want to talk to me?
Your child feeling like they have a safe place to go is what’s important. If your child won’t talk to you, see if there’s anyone else your child will be willing to talk to such as a family friend, aunt, uncle, a teacher, counsellor, or Childline.