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- Withdrawn behaviour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
- 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 but it is a good idea to check in with them.
If you discover your child is being bullied, it is normal to experience a range of emotions. These may include sadness, fear and/or anger.
As parents, you want your children to feel loved, protected and valued, so these feelings are a natural response to an unwanted situation. 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 you do to help your child include:
1. Listening to your child
Listen, don’t talk.
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 that bullying is never OK and they always have a right to feel safe and respected.
2. Supporting your child
After listening to your child, support them by helping 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 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.
3. Being extra kind to 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?
Having a safe space to talk is what’s important for your child. If your child won’t talk to you, see if there’s anyone else they might be willing to talk to such as a family friend, aunt, uncle, a teacher, counsellor, or Childline.
They can contact us any time of the day or night for free by chatting live online at childline.ie or calling 1800 66 66 66.