Whilst we can hope that bullying won’t happen to our children, it is important to be aware of the signs and know how to encourage them to talk to us openly.
The television programme This Morning recently launched a “Be Kind” campaign where two mothers spoke openly about the bullying their children experienced and how it lead them to them take their own lives! With the severity of the potential consequences of bullying clear to see, we thought it important to share our tips on how to talk, and more importantly LISTEN to your child if you believe they are being bullied.
It takes a great deal of courage for a child who is being bullied to approach an adult to ask for help – they may be ashamed, or think that they are going to be in greater danger if the bullies become aware.
Reassure your child that they’ve done the right thing and that the bullying isn’t their fault, it isn’t right and you are going to do your best to get the bullying to stop.
Don’t promise that you won’t tell anyone else. It will probably be necessary for you to discuss the matter with another adult to get the bullying resolved. If you make false promises, this is more likely to lead to distrust in the future.
Because you care, when you’re listening it can be tempting to interrupt and react to the story being told, or interject with your own opinion.
It is much more valuable to just listen the first time your child opens up to you, there will probably be a lot that they want to say and it may not make sense at first. Given space, once they have expressed their initial emotion, ask your child gentle questions and gather important details.
Do ask your child what they would like to have happen and listen to what they tell you. If you do something they are really against, they may not open up again.
Specifics are important, if the child can tell you when the bullying began, who is committing it, what is being said or done, it will be more straightforward to approach the school to ask them to investigate and take appropriate action.
Try to understand a bit more about the bully. Why are they targeting your child? Could it be envy or an underlining wish to be friends? With younger children sometimes just inviting the bully to play in your home and letting the two children get to know each other, away from peers and school environment can resolve the issue.
Has your child started behaving out of character? Have they started dreading going to school when previously they loved it? Are they retreating to their room at night when they used to go and play with friends? Has their appetite/sleep pattern changed? These and many more indicators could all be signs of bullying.
If you notice behaviour that is out of character but your child wont open up, then gently persist. Try not to become angry if you only receive one-word answers, they may be scared – getting angry may mean they are LESS likely to talk to you.
We live in a virtual age and children often spend more time communicating with friends on-line than they do in person.
Mobile devices, whilst useful in many ways, can be incredibly invasive to our privacy. Whilst your child may not be experiencing physical bullying, on-line bullying can have the same impact so be aware of any unusual behaviour.
If you notice your child is spending more time than usual staring at their phone or showing signs of anxiety when they receive messages, it is essential to ask them about it.
To avoid affecting a child’s sleep pattern if they are feeling anxious, it may be worth imposing a curfew on mobiles and laptops, asking that they be left downstairs or in another room for an hour or more before bedtime.
Talk openly with your children about their on-line activity. They may think that as an ‘adult’ you don’t understand but the more you talk to them about it, the more they will be willing to work with you if they do have problems.
Dealing with bullying can be an emotional time, especially for parents who may want to rush in and protect their ‘baby’ whatever age, however, making it our problem and dashing in on a white charger often makes things worse.
Remember – as long as they open up, children and young people, with our help, can generally deal with issues.