What to do if your child is being bullied?
(continued from last week)
Listen without getting angry or upset. “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,” body language and tone of voice speak volumes.
Remember, people sometimes 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, this might mean encouraging them to join a club or activity like drama or self-defense.
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 rush off demanding to see the head teacher, the bully or the bully’s parents. This is usually the very reaction children dread and, can cause bullying to get worse.
∑ “Never tell your child to hit or shout names back.” This will not solve the problem and, if your child is under-confident (as most bullied children are) then it just adds to their stress and anxiety.
∑ Never dismiss their experience: If your child has built 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. 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.
As a parent you may feel anger, hurt, guilt, helplessness or fear. “Your own memories of being a child may help you empathize 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, be prepared to admit that you don’t know something and offer to help find an answer by doing research, speaking to a counselor, the principal or teachers.
Doing everyday tasks together provides ideal opportunities to chat casually about bullying, “But don’t expect a once-only message to stick: Research shows that around 40 per cent 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.