October is Bullying Prevention Month.
“1 out 4 kids is bullied.”
“43% fear harassment in the school changing rooms / toilets.”
“80% of the time an argument with a bully ends up with a physical fight.”
What is Bullying?
If your child is being made to feel sad and miserable by someone else – then I believe that’s bullying. Whether it’s physical, verbal or cyber-bullying – I believe strongly that something needs to be done to stop this intimidation.
In the olden days ( when we were young ) – the thought was that bullying was “character building.” Not any more. It’s different this time around. It is not empowering and a right of passage any longer – it can be both dangerous and harmful.
The Effects of Bullying.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones,
but words will never hurt me.”
Bullying is all about an abuse of power. The bully feels more powerful if they know that someone else fears them. By removing that ‘fear’ the person being bullied can take back control.
It’s best to take action as soon as you are aware of the situation – because, in the short term bullying can affect your child’s studies. In the longer term your child’s self worth can be impacted.
Bullying can result in :
- Lack of Self-belief
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Breakdown of friendships and other relationships
- Possibility of self-harm
- Use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
What to do : ADULTS :
“Playground Bullying Statistics : 4% adult intervention, 11% Peer intervention, 85% No Intervention at all.”
Bullying can be quite hard to detect. There is still a great deal of secrecy wrapped around bullying because kids often feel that if they are being bullied they are weak. Which, as we know, is not the case. By it’s very nature, it can not only be difficult to get information out of your child – but tricky to ‘see the signs.’
Because they are being threatened, kids feel that if they speak out the situation will only get worse.
Supporting your child and showing them that you love them can, in itself, be a real confidence booster.
When you help them to understand that it’s not their fault, you can also give them back the power they need to cope with what is going on.
What is Cyber Bullying?
“58% of kids who have been harassed online – have not told their parents or an adult.”
You might be aware of physical and verbal bullying – but what about cyber-bullying? What exactly is it?
Speaking very generally – this is where a person is being bullied through the use of technology.
In the olden days we were bullied in the playground or on the way to and from school. But outside of that, we were able to close the doors when we got home and have a few hours respite before going back to it all the next day. That is no longer the case. This technological onslaught is relentless.
Cyber-bullying is almost the “Invisible Method of Bullying.” The problem is that it is constant and very hard to spot.
For example, your child might be receiving unkind messages via text, Facebook or Snapchat that you are not even aware of.
The problem here has that the online harassment means that the sender can remain anonymous – which understandably, can be really hugely unsettling for any target.
“KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.”
It is crucial for you – as a parent – to understand your child’s world. What do you know about any of these :
- Instant Messaging
In this day and age – you cannot abdicate responsibility and hide behind the excuse of “I’m a technophobe!” This is such an irresponsible attitude that sadly, I still see many parents still using.
You don’t have to be a whizz at all this stuff – but having an awareness is vital. Technology is not going away.
Yes, there are measures that you can take to support your child, like keeping the home computers downstairs so that everyone can see what is going on. Also installing parental controls is another precaution – but as soon as your child has a phone or tablet of their own – all these safeguards are immaterial.
They are vulnerable to these technological aggressors – and it’s up to you to communicate and support your child as best you can; to do this you have to get to grips with the technology that your child is using.
17% of 6-11 year olds and 36% of 12-17 year olds reported that someone said something threatening or embarrassing about them through email, instant messaging, websites, chat rooms or text messages.
What are the Warning Signs?
Is your child being bullied? Here are the signs you could look for :
- Damaged / Missing belongings
- Unexplained bruises and cuts
- Reluctance to go to ( or travel to ) school
- Social withdrawal
- Complaints about feeling ill more often
- Change in mood – more upset and angry
- Change in appetite or sleep patterns
- Lack of confidence
How can you help?
They key is communication.
Chat to your child calmly and without drama. Perhaps ask a couple of questions like :
“Who do you hang around with at school at the minute?”
“There’s loads on the news about bullying – is there much bullying at school?”
“Are there any kids at school who are causing you problems?”
Just : Stop and listen to the replies. Initially you do not need to go in with all guns blazing to solve the problem. The very fact that your child knows that you are there for them and you want to help can be a huge relief.
Support your child. This not only builds their self confidence – but it builds their Self-Efficacy. What does that mean? Well, Self-Efficacy is all about the self belief that we have in OURSELVES, and how we feel we behaviour and and act in certain situations. It translates into our ability to cope in under pressure and how we are likely to react.
It will heighten their opinion of themselves to be able to deal with stuff when they are stressed ( e.g. : Standing up for themselves if/when they are being bullied. )
EMPOWER your child :
- Ask them about : WHAT is going on.
- Ask them about : HOW they would like the outcome to be different.
- Ask them about : WHAT they think they could do themselves to change that situation.
By giving your child the control back, it helps them to recognise that there are different options open to them; and that they can make those changes for themselves.
Rather than wading in and fixing stuff – help them to understand that they too can deal with the situation themselves ( with your support ). This really helps them develop and learn. Crucially equipping them with the skills to cope with other difficulties in the future.
There are a number of ways that your child can help themselves. Without re-inventing the wheel, I would encourage you to point them towards support websites like ChildLine. www.childline.org.uk
But if you feel the issues still cannot be resolved, then the problem will have to be escalated.
Approach the school :
First : Talk to their class teacher. This may be less easy in secondary school as your child will have many different teachers – but perhaps make an appointment with the Head of Year or the school’s Pastoral Care Teacher.
I suggest you include your child in this part of the process. Secrecy created the problem. They need to feel that they are being listened to and can maintain control again.
Secondly : With support from the school, take the same approach mentioned above. Empower your child and collectively agree a way forwards.
What to do : KIDS :
- Tell an adult that you trust (Parent / Teacher / school nurse / counsellor)
- Remember all the facts ( the bully / who else was there / where and when it happened. ) Sometimes it’s really useful to keep a diary. This helps you – when you decide to tell someone about what’s going on. You will have the right information at your fingertips.
- Stand up for yourself : if it is safe to do so. From experience – the bully is usually the one who has deeper issues going on. This is not making excuses for their bad behaviour – but it might help you to understand that it’s all to do with them and not you. Do not bully back – but look them in the eye and say “STOP THIS NOW” in a strong voice.
- Hang Out with your Mates more : You know what they say … There’s safety in numbers.
- If your friend is being bullied – support them and encourage them to look for help. It’s best that they report it themselves as this gives your friend back the control.
If you are being bullied : REMEMBER :
- This is not your fault.
- Do not fight back – as you will be in as much blame – unless you are being physically hurt and you need to do so to get away from the situation.
- Don’t skip school if you are being bullied – you have every right to be there and the bully will think that they have won if you do miss school.
- Keeping quiet is not acceptable. You are more important than that – and the bully must be stopped so that they cannot hurt anyone else.
- If, after telling someone, you don’t feel that the situation is improving – then tell another adult. Keep going until you are heard.
Remember that each school has an Anti-Bullying Policy – so it is their responsibility to support and deal will any bullying situation that is brought to their attention.
If you’d like to help your teen deal with bullying I highly recommend you try my SWISH Away ebook.
Much Love 💕