Here is my advice about what to do if your child is being bullied on Bullying UK and why not join me on my next Workshop with your child Sue’s 5 Step Self Esteem Solution Workshop to empower your child with the skills they need for long term self esteem and confidence?
No parent likes to think about their child being bullied or, even worse, being a bully but the fact is, more than half of all children are involved – either as a perpetrator, victim or witness. So, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with it at some point. If your child is being bullied there are things you can do to help them.
Tips to help your child
“Listen without getting angry or upset,” says Sandra Hiller, Family Lives. “Put your own feelings aside, sit down and actually listen to what your child is telling you – then show you have done so by ‘playing back’ to them what you hear. Ask your child: “How do you want me to take this forward?” rather than just taking over so they don’t feel excluded from deciding what to do or end up even more stressed/worried than they were already.
Reassure your child it’s not their fault. There’s still a stigma attached to bullying and some children feel they’ve brought it upon themselves. Remind them that many celebrities have been bullied too. Being bullied isn’t about being weak and being a bully isn’t about being strong. “Encourage your child to try to appear confident – even if they don’t feel it,” says Sue Atkins, former deputy head and parenting coach. Body language and tone of voice speak volumes.
Sometimes people say nasty things because they want a certain reaction or to cause upset, so if your child gives them the impression they’re not bothered, the bullies are more likely to stop. Role-play bullying scenarios and practice your child’s responses. Talk about how our voices, bodies and faces send messages just the same way our words do.
Don’t let the bullying dominate their life. Help your child develop new skills in a new area, says Rob Parsons, international speaker on family life and author of Teenagers! What Every Parent Has to Know (Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99). This might mean encouraging them to join a club or activity like drama or self-defence. This builds confidence, helps keep the problem in perspective and offers a chance to make new friends. Ease up on pressure in other less-important areas like nagging about an untidy bedroom.
Things to avoid
Don’t charge off demanding to see the head teacher, the bully or the bully’s parents. This is usually the very reaction children dread and, according to ChildLine’s counsellors, can cause bullying to get worse.”Never tell your child to hit or shout names back,” says Sandra Hiller. “It simply doesn’t solve the problem and, if your child is under-confident (and most bullied children are) then it just adds to their stress and anxiety.”
Never dismiss their experience: If your child has plucked up the courage to tell you about bullying, it’s crushing to be told to “sort it out yourself” or “it’s all part of growing up.” Don’t tell them to ignore it, warns Lyndall Horton-James, Bullying Prevention Education Consultant and author of ‘Raising Bullywise Kids’. This only teaches them that bullying has to be tolerated, rather than stopped – and sets them up for further bullying in the future.
Dealing with your feelings
“You may feel anger, hurt, guilt, helplessness or fear,” explains Sue Atkins. “Your own memories of being a child may help you empathise and find solutions but they can also get in the way. Think about how you feel before reacting – or you may not be able to help as much as you want.”
Be honest, advises Lyndall Horton-James, “Be prepared to admit that you don’t know something and offer to help find an answer by searching the internet, calling a helpline, asking their school or by visiting the library together.
“Doing everyday tasks together provides ideal opportunities to chat casually about bullying,” says Lyndall. “But don’t expect a once-only message to stick: Research shows that around 40% of children, whose parents had talked to them about bullying, couldn’t recall what their parents had said.”
Don’t be upset if your child wants to talk to other adults and friends about the problem. You, also, may find it helpful to discuss the matter confidentially with your friends – though preferably not with those whose children go to the same school.
Getting support from the school
All schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy. Many also offer different forms of peer supportwhere certain children are trained in active listening or mediation skills to help bullied children. In secondary schools they may be called peer mentors, supporters, counsellors, listeners or mediators while in primary schools, they might be called friendship or playground buddies, playtime pals or peacemakers. Lyndall Horton-James, Bullying Prevention and Education Consultant offers the following tips:
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