With approximately one in four Year 4 to Year 9 Australian students reported being bullied every few weeks or more often*, bullying is pretty much an epidemic.
No parent wants their child to be bullied and parent play an important role. They need to be able to read the signs of bullying, know how to act, but don’t overreact.
Bullying can have a severe impact on the mental health and wellbeing of your child, let alone the simple childhood happiness they deserve. Frighteningly, bullying can sometimes even lead to the situation where a child doesn’t want to live anymore.
How to help your child beat their bully
Know what is bullying and what isn’t
There are lots of aspects to bullying and there are many different types – verbal, physical, emotional, social, and cyberbullying. Not every argument, disagreement, little fight or act of aggression is bullying.
Bullying has three main features:
- it involves a misuse of power in a relationship
- it is ongoing and repeated
- it involves behaviour that can cause harm
If parents think their child is being bullied, a first good step is to assess if these features are applicable to the situation of their child.
For parents, this is a balancing act. They need to protect their children from bullies, however, stepping in too soon, too often and being a helicopter parent, undermines the development of resilience in your child.
When my daughter in Year 3 was being bullied at primary school recently, I tried to assess how much of this harassment she could solve herself.
As a mental toughness coach, I believe it is important for my children to learn how to navigate these situations, as they surely will come back later in life.
When the verbal and physical harassment kept going for a prolonged period, I acted.
Know how to recognise the signs of bullying
For children, one of the most important steps to take, is to discuss the bullying situation at home or with a trusted adult. However, this can also be one of the hardest steps for children, as they might feel ashamed or at fault. Therefore, it is important for caretakers and educators to tune into any changes in behaviour and body language children might display.
Some of the sign’s parents and carers might notice:
- less energetic and playful
- doesn’t want to go to school
- change in eating patterns
- drops in academic performance
- more frequent tears and mood swings
- has unexplained bruises and scratches
In my daughter’s case, I noticed it started to impact her happy self. She smiled less and there were tears more often. One day when she started crying on our walk home from school when we discussed the situation, I knew I had to act.
Know how to act to help your child
One of the most important action to take when your child gets bullied at school, is to formalise a complaint in a written letter. Formalising a bullying complaint and hand deliver it, means the school must document it, report on it and take action to solve it.
I informed my daughter’s teacher and formalised a complaint in a letter to the principle. I quickly noticed an increased focus to solve the bullying problem at school. The teachers pro-actively started to update me about the situation. My daughter and her bully had weekly catch-ups with the principal.
The principal called the parents of the bully to discuss the situation. This wouldn’t necessarily have happened without a formal complaint.
Know how to minimise the effect of bullying on your child
If you find yourself in a serious bullying situation with your child, make it your first action to formalise a complaint. However, also continue the conversation at home and find ways to mitigate the direct impact.
How to reduce the impact of bullying:
- Reassure them they are not to blame for the situation
- Tell them you love them and discuss their many great traits
- Explore together why bullies do what they do and what drives them
- Discuss how your child can stand up for herself in a constructive non-violent way
- Help them to have play days and friendships outside the bully circle
- Ask others to keep an eye out on the schoolyard to keep your child safe
- Make sure your child keeps active, enjoy their hobbies or pick up new ones
There is no silver bullet to stop a bullying situation when your child is the victim. Having an open conversation at home, while working on your child’s self-worth, confidence, health, proper self-defence and emotional resilience, surely can help to manage the severity of the impact.
More importantly, by doing this, we help them develop skills and traits that can last a lifetime. Because as adults we know that bullying is an unfortunate part of life and doesn’t just stop after primary school.
* Stats from www.bullyingnoway.gov.au