Childhood bullying is more common that we like to think and it can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally. Bullying, unfortunately exists in many forms: It can be physical (pushing, punching, or hitting); verbal (name-calling, teasing, shaming and threats); or psychological and emotional (spreading rumours, excluding someone from a conversation or activity or undermining someone).
And, it’s not exclusive to high-school age children as younger children can be subject to some form of bulling too. With the increasing everyday use of mobiles phones, social media, online gaming and virtual groups inappropriate behaviour between kids can take place outside of school day hours via emails, text messages, WhatsApp and Facebook/Instagram posts. Cyberbullying, can be particularly hurtful and aggressive, and the harmful effects can often trickle into school hours and after-school clubs / activities the following day too.
What’s more the mental health effects of being bullied can be serious and last a lifetime. The first step to dealing with bullies is knowing when your child is a victim and learning how to spot the signs—and, then how to protect children of all ages from bullies at school.
Five tips on what to do if your child is being bullied
- Stay Calm: If you discover that your child is being bullied, don’t rush off to confront the bully, the bully’s parents or the head teacher at the school. This approach can cause the bullying to get worse. Instead, focus on identifying a solution with your child. Discuss ways to project a confident, positive and resilient appearance – say acting unimpressed or unaffected, give a quick reply to surprise or disarm the other child – which may stop the bullying from continuing
- Listening Ears. Encourage your child to talk about what happened and really listen to your child as objectively as possible and try not to get angry or upset. Ask him how he wants to take the problem forward so he feels involved and knows what’s going to happen next. If he is excluded, he may feel more worried and uncertain about the outcome.
- Limit the Worry. Reassure your child that it is not his fault. It’s important that he knows that he has not brought the bullying on himself and that ignoring it will not make it go away. Assure him that reporting the bullying is okay and is the right thing to do.
- Don’t Fight Back. Never tell your child to hit or shout names back. Bullying the bully is not the answer and can further escalate the situation as your child may be reprimanded for their part in a fight. Not only is it unlikely to solve the problem, it also increases your child’s stress and anxiety if he is not confident.
- Act Fast: Don’t tell your child to simply ignore the bullying. This indicates that it’s OK to tolerate bullying rather than stopped completely. You need to make make a parental decision to talk to the school/club immediately if you believe your child’s safety is at risk.
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