A child who experiences bullying needs immediate assistance, both at school and at home. This help should include developing strategies that deal with and overcome the bullying.
Here are eight ways parents can help their child if they are being bullied:
Look for warning signs
Signs and symptoms of bullying, (including cyber bullying), include: complaints about items being stolen, evidence of physical injury such as bruising, inadequate/disrupted sleep patterns, avoidance or reluctance to go to school or social outings, feigned illnesses or headaches, or withdrawal from school/social activities. When these or other indicators are impacting on the normal functioning of the child the issue must be addressed immediately.
Take it seriously
Take the child seriously and avoid dismissing complaints, children who are bullied need someone to believe them and their story. Sometimes the only thing children want is the knowledge that they have their teachers’ and parents’ understanding and support.
Avoid over-reacting and resist the temptation to confront the bullies. This only causes an escalation and invites retaliation. Children are more likely to confide in their parents if they know they will be consulted about any subsequent action.
Get the facts
Get a clear picture of what took place, who was involved and what your child was doing before being bullied. Help your child identify any behaviour such as playing alone or annoying others that may contribute to the bullying. Be careful that you don’t appear to be accusing your child of inviting bullying. Instead try to ascertain if there are behaviours that may contribute to being bullied.
Create an action plan
Provide your child, if appropriate, with actions that can be taken based on information you have gathered such as who, what, where, when and why, to reduce the likelihood of being bullied. The result might be for the child to avoid certain areas at school, attempt to make new friends and playing alongside others.
Communication is key
Teach your child how to develop effective communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal body language, as well as assertiveness. For example, telling the bully firmly to stop annoying them or ignore their behaviour and walk away; speak in a firm, not angry voice; stand and walk tall; look into their eyes firmly, but not in a threatening way; and stay in control of their emotions.
Lead by example
Provide good role models both at home and school. By observing first hand how adults manage a bullying situation can assist the child develop additional strategies. This is why experiential learning can be so powerful.
Involve the school
Inform your child’s school of the bullying behaviour. Present your concern to the relevant support staff at the school and discuss any possible solutions.
Written by Dr Tom Cerni, Head of Counselling Services, The Scots College
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