What is bullying?
If your child is being made to feel sad and miserable by someone else - then I believe that's bullying, whether it's physical, verbal or cyber-bullying.
When I was young - I often heard that bullying was "character building." Not any more thankfully. It's different this time around. It is no longer regarded as empowering and a right of passage. Bullying is both dangerous and harmful.
The effects of bullying.
"Sticks and stones will break my bones,
but words will never hurt me."
Bullying is all about an abuse of power. The bully gains their power by controlling and terrorising others. By removing that 'fear' the person being bullied can take back their control.
Bullying can result in :
- Lack of self-belief
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Breakdown of friendships and other relationships
- Possibility of self-harm
- Use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
How can parents help?
We can minimise these risks by being aware earlier and taking swifter action.
Here's what to look for:
- Reduced confidence
- Damaged/missing belongings
- Unexplained bruises and cuts
- Reluctance to go to (or travel to) school
- Social withdrawal
- Increased sickness
- Mood swings
- Disrupted appetite or sleep
There is still a great deal of secrecy and it can therefore be hard to detect. The person being bullied can feel disempowered and mistakenly takes this as a sign of weakness. They also worry that if they speak out the situation will only get worse.
Helping your child to understand that this is not their fault - and that you love them - can be enough support that they need to cope with what is going on.
What is cyber bullying?
"58% of kids who have been harassed online,
have not told their parents or an adult.
Nowadays - bullying comes in all shapes and sizes. You might be aware of physical and verbal bullying - but have you heard about cyber-bullying?
Generally speaking - this is where a person is being bullied through the use of technology.
My generation were bullied at school, or on the school commute. But at least we knew our aggressors; enjoying the few hours of respite before going back to it all the next day. That is no longer the case. This technological onslaught is relentless.
Cyber-bullying is almost the "Invisible Method of Bullying." The problem is that it is constant and very hard to spot.
Your child might be receiving unkind messages via Facebook, text, chat rooms. All the while the sender can remain anonymous - which understandably, can be really hugely unsettling.
Parents cannot abdicate responsibility and hide behind the excuse of "I'm a technophobe!" This is such an irresponsible attitude that sadly, I still see many parents still using.
You don't have to be a whizz at all this stuff - but having an awareness is vital. Technology is not going away.
Yes, there are measures that you can take to support your child, like keeping the home computers (with appropriate filters and controls) downstairs so that everyone can see what is going on. But, as soon as your child has a phone or tablet of their own - all these safeguards are immaterial.
17% of 6-11 year olds and 36% of 12-17 year olds
reported that someone said something threatening or embarrassing
about them through email, websites, chat rooms or text messages.
How can you help?
They key is communication.
Chat to your child calmly and without drama. Perhaps ask a couple of questions like :
"Who do you hang around with at school at the minute?"
"There's loads on the news about bullying - is there much bullying at school?"
"Are there any kids at school who are causing you problems?"
Then: Stop and listen to the replies.
Initially you do not need to go in with all guns blazing to solve the problem. The very fact that your child knows that you are there for them and you want to help can be a huge relief.
Support your child. This not only builds their self confidence - but it builds their self-efficacy. What does that mean? Well, self-efficacy is all about the self belief that we have in OURSELVES, and how we feel we behaviour and and act in certain situations. It translates into our ability to cope in under pressure and how we are likely to react.
EMPOWER your child :
- WHAT is going on.
- HOW they would like the outcome to be different.
- WHAT they could do to change that situation.
By giving your child back the control, it helps them to recognise that there are different options open to them; and that they can make those changes for themselves.
Rather than wading in and fixing stuff - help them to understand that they too can deal with the situation themselves ( with your support ). This really helps them develop and learn. Crucially equipping them with the skills to cope with other difficulties in the future.
If you feel the issues still cannot be resolved however, then the problem will have to be escalated.
Advice for your child.
* Tell an adult that you trust (parent / teacher / school nurse / counsellor)
* Remember all the facts (who, what, where and when). Sometimes it's really useful to keep a diary.
* If it's safe - stand up for yourself: invariably the bully has their own issues - this isn't condoning their behaviour - but understanding they have struggles might just help knowing this is not about you.
Here's a trick to help you feel more in control: power poses
* Hang Out with your Mates more: there's safety in numbers.
Remember that each school has an Anti-Bullying Policy - so it is their responsibility to support and deal will any bullying situation that is brought to their attention.
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