We all know that feeling when our beloved child comes home and says that they have been bullied, the awful pulling of your heartstrings and sometimes confusion on how to help. Sadly, bullying is something that most children will face at least once in their school life.
Bullying can look different and appear in a wide variety of ways, so first things first, here is a list of common signs of bullying that you may notice:
– Wanting to avoid school or social situations
– Regularly ‘losing’ items at school
– Damaged school clothes, books or gear
– Friendship changes
– Physical marks on their skin
– Poor sleep
– Not wanting to engage in usual activities
So, what can you do at home to help protect and prepare your child before bullying even occurs?
– Chat regularly about school, make sure that they know you are there to listen without judgement and that you are there to help
– Encourage friendships that are healthy and positive for your child
– Be open about discussing bullying (both being a bully and being bullied)
– Have clear standards and morals about behaviour and social skills – be a role model at home and when out with your child
– Read stories about friendships, school, and life in general, if bullying comes up, take it as an opportunity to learn and chat, e.g. ‘aw, the poor cow is being bullied by the horse, that would feel really upsetting.’
– Teach your child that feelings are normal and okay – and that they’re important to talk about
Now, if the bullying has started, here are my recommended next steps:
– Talk and find out more (listen, give them your full attention in a safe space, stay calm, summarise the problem to check you understand properly and provide them with time to speak)
– Let your child know that it’s normal to be upset or angry when they are being bullied.
– Let your child know that it’s not their fault that they are being bullied
– Agree with your child that there is a problem, validate their feelings
– Praise your child for letting you know and assure them that you will help them with the problem
– Avoid making a negative comment such as ‘you need to stand up for yourself better’ or ‘don’t be a wimp’
Now that you are equipped with the information and you have reassured and comforted your child, it’s time to go to the teacher and school.
– Make a time to chat privately with the class teacher
– Calmly explain your concerns and what your child has said to you
– Discuss the problem and solutions with the teacher – this is an excellent time to ask about a school’s anti-bullying policy or procedure.
– Try to be assertive, not angry or accusatory
– Finish the meeting with a set plan on the next steps to manage the situation and make a time to check in again
– Keep in touch with the teacher and let them know of any changes or developments.
The last step, make sure you let your child know about the plan made with the teacher and that you have followed it up. It’s crucial that they know that you did what you said you’d do and that the school is also there to support them.
Bullying sucks, so be kind to yourself, have an extra goodnight cuddle, a special weekend treat or some extra encouragement about why your child is great!