Bullying is disempowering and robs a child’s confidence and self-esteem. It should never go unaddressed because of the long-term negative impact it can have on a victim’s mental and physical health.
If your child is being bullied in school, what can you do to help? Besides tapping on anti-bullying resources, here are six responses you can try to help you manage the situation.
1. Identify the Warning Signs
Symptoms of bullying can manifest in different ways for different children. Here are some of the more common signs that you can look out for:
Your chatty child is unusually withdrawn after school.
He or she refuses to go to school for reasons that may not seem valid.
Your child starts to cry or complains of a stomach-ache before school – signs associated with anxiety in children.
There are physical injuries or bruises on your child’s body.
Your child’s property has been destroyed or stolen (e.g. stationery, pocket money).
2. Be Open and Approachable
Children are not able to regulate their emotions and impulses as well as adults; so even a small conflict may intimidate them. To help your child feel safe, listen attentively and reserve judgement as he or she recounts the bullying incident. Empathise and assure your child of your unconditional support.
For children who are unwilling to open up, help them find the words by sharing stories about the time you experienced an incident of bullying or witnessed one when you were younger and how it was eventually resolved. Finding common ground is a good place to start. You may find that your child is more forthcoming after your own sharing.
3. Clarify with Your Child’s Teacher
Schedule an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to find out more about what happened, and potentially a meeting with the bully’s parents. If a deeper intervention is required, formulating an intervention plan with the school’s counsellor can equip your child with the right skills to prevent bullying incidents in future.
4. Restore Power in Small Ways at Home
Helping children to find their voice and ‘power’ at home can make them feel a little better if they have been victims of bullying in school. Simple tasks like deciding what the family eats for dinner, choosing what movie to watch during family nights or even staying up a little past bedtime to engage in something they enjoy can help them regain some self-esteem.
Children need to feel safe and protected; so make the home environment as conducive as possible for this to take place while your child is healing from the incident.
5. Model Good Social Behaviour
Our children are more likely to follow what we do than to listen to what we say. Children who witness their parents stand up for themselves in healthy and diplomatic ways are more likely to defend and stand up for themselves in similar ways – without allowing others to exert power over them.
6. Read Books on Bullying Together
Reading books may offer your child some perspective on bullying, helping him or her to understand it better. Besides, stories have a way of creating a lasting impression and your child may just pick up the relevant skills necessary to develop healthy relationships with friends.