Anti-Bullying week is here (14- 18 November), which means it’s the perfect time to help those affected finally speak out. Shocking statistics have even revealed that over 1.5 million young people have been bullied within the past year, with a huge 19% saying they were bullied every day. This can be anything from verbal abuse, teasing, aggression or physical harm. Children are often too scared or embarrassed to talk to anyone (even parents) about their experiences. Here at Tutor Doctor, we want to help raise awareness of what bullying really is, warning signs to look out for and how you can help your child if they are affected.
What is bullying?
Bullying is the intentional infliction of physical, verbal or psychological harm. It can range from hitting, pushing, name-calling, threats, teasing, mocking, extorting money or possessions and spreading rumors. Often it will be constant, upsetting, hurtful and can affect a child’s confidence. Recently cyber-bullying has also started to become a growing concern, especially as children spend more time online than ever before. The anonymity of the Internet can encourage bad behavior and often abuse that can be shocking to read.
As parents, it’s safe to say you will know your child better than anyone else, so if you do start to notice abnormal behaviour, make sure you don’t ignore it. Even though kids do go through phases every now and then, if you start to observe a few of the following behaviours, it might be time to investigate further. Some character changes can include:
∙ Low self-esteem
∙ Negative thoughts
∙ Reluctance to attend school
∙ Skipping after-school activities
∙ Being self-loathing
∙ Heightened anxiety, panic attacks, fearfulness, nightmares
∙ Isolating themselves from family and peers
∙ Constant mood swings, irritability or general unhappiness
∙ Disturbed Sleep Patterns
∙ Losing lunch money/noticing possessions are lost
∙ Changing their usual route to school
∙ Sudden changes in behavior
∙ Unexplained repeated illnesses like headaches and stomach aches
Dealing with bullying
Talk to your child
If you do think your child may be a victim of bullying, start by talking to them about it. Listen to their concerns, what’s been happening and how they’re feeling. If you can, try to gauge what kind of bullying it is, how long it’s been going on and who are the ringleaders- having these key facts will be useful if you have to talk to their school later on. It’s equally important that you remind them that they don’t deserve to be treated badly and that you are there to support them no matter what. Often when kids are bullied they can feel very alone, scared and embarrassed to admit what’s been happening to them- making them feel at ease is key.
A great way to start dealing with bullying is by working with your child to help them resolve the situation. Outline coping strategies which can help them regain confidence and stand up for themselves. For example, urge them to use humor to diffuse tricky situations, get them to walk away from bullies if they start shouting verbal abuse and practice assertively saying ‘no’ for when they ask for lunch money or possessions. You could also try practicing role-play scenarios with your child so they learn how to respond to bullying. If these methods don’t work, an alternative solution is encouraging them to take part in extracurricular activities. Not only will this help them create a new circle of friends- it can hugely build up their self confidence levels, which really will make the world of difference.
Talk to the school
If you are extremely concerned about bullying, talk to their school and teachers. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy in place to deal with situations exactly like the one your child is going through. Discuss solutions with teachers and encourage your child to report any incidents to a member of staff as soon as it happens so immediate action can be taken.
Stay Safe online
Bullying often goes much further than the school playground, especially with social media and the internet being so accessible. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, make sure they know how to block people that are sending negative messages, they are aware of what information they should be sharing as well as the limits of what’s okay to say and what’s not. If something has gone too far or abusive messages keep coming through, they need to show you straight away and staying offline for a while is a good idea.
Check in regularly
Finally, it’s important that you check in regularly with your child to see how they’re doing, what’s going on and give them opportunities to let you know if the bullying is still going on. It’s also vital to keep lines of communication open with their school or teachers, as they will be able to keep an eye on how things are going and can feedback any concerns they may see in regards to behaviour or performance.
If you need more information on bullying, other ways that you can help your child, resources or just advice for parents make sure you check out Bullying UK’s website here.