Most young people have experienced bullying, which can take place at school, travelling to and from school, online and at home where it can be perpetrated by siblings. Fortunately, for most children bullying is transitory with short term impact, but for a few the impact can be devastating, demoralising and cause psychological damage.
Bullying can be carefully disguised leaving young people unsure whether they are being bullied as falling out with friends, teasing and name-calling is so prevalent. Bullying is when one person intentionally and persistently tries to upset, hurt or intimidate another, either physically or emotionally. Bullying can have a lasting effect, leaving the young person with feelings of loneliness, fear, anger and anxiety and may lead to depression and self-harm.
Fortunately, for most children bullying is transitory with short term impact, but for a few the impact can be devastating, demoralising and cause psychological damage.
Some children are reluctant to tell their parents for fear of the bullying escalating or not being believed. Young people sometimes believe they deserve to be bullied, so when a child does tell their parent, it may have taken great courage so it is important they are listened to and not judged. It can be emotionally challenging when parents learn that their child is being bullied and feelings of anger may overwhelm as they realise they have been unable to protect their child.
As some young people are disinclined to tell their parents about being bullied, it is helpful to recognise the signs: a change in mood or behaviour; school refusal; an unexplained decline in school grades; unexplained injuries; coming home with missing possessions or money; upset after using the internet or mobile; difficulty sleeping; change in eating habits; social withdrawal or self-harm.
Young people sometimes believe they deserve to be bullied, so when a child does tell their parent, it may have taken great courage so it is important they are listened to and not judged
Once children have opened up to being bullied, parents need to reassure them that they were right to confide, that they are believed and that the parent will work with the school to stop the bullying and to keep them safe.
Some children are able to feel better once an adult has been told, knowing that action will be taken to stop the perpetrator; they are able to move on despite feelings of upset and anger. Others can be so adversely affected that they need counselling to help them work through their feelings. They may refuse to attend school and their school work and friendships suffer. If left unsupported, the impact of childhood bullying can lead to mental health problems such as depression, low self-esteem and anger in adulthood.
The top signs for spotting bullying
- 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
Helping your child to avoid being bullied or becoming a bully:
- Express unconditional love and support for your child.
- Praise and reward good behaviour and efforts to change.
- Increase their self confidence by recognising and developing their strengths.
- Teach your child positive ways to manage anger and frustration.
- Model non-aggressive behaviour yourself.
Encouraging your child to talk:
- Make time to listen to your child.
- Encourage your child to talk to you by being supportive.
- Take an interest in issues that concern them.
- Give the child time to explore their concerns.
- Never play down what may seem trivial to you but try not to feed their anxieties.
- Be careful not to make any quick judgements.
Helping your child to overcome bullying:
- If they are being bullied, reassure them that it is not their fault.
- If they are bullying, try to find out why and encourage them to accept responsibility.
- Boost their self esteem at every opportunity with lots of praise, affection and encouragement.
- Make every effort to find out exactly what has been going on and for how long.
- Help and support your child in developing their own solutions to bullying.
- Identify any unpleasant behaviour which may lead to being bullied and help them to change.
- Use role play to practise set responses to the most frequent insults and threats.
- Encourage new interests, activities and friendships.
Working in partnership with others:
- Record any incidences of bullying that your child tells you about.
- Explain the situation to the appropriate adults (e.g. school, club leaders) calmly and clearly.
- Cooperate with others in any ways they suggest to solve the problem.
- Try and keep in touch with other involved adults.
- If bullying continues ask that it is investigated and that action is taken.
- Review progress and request follow-up meetings if needed.