Any child can be subjected to bullying; whether verbal, mental, physical or on the internet.
Here at Odara, many mothers tell us about concerns for their child’s safety – including bullying -so we wanted to talk about confronting the issue from a parent’s perspective.
In this blog we’ll discuss spotting the signs of bullying, talking to your child about it, and addressing it in a constructive and sensitive manner. We hope this advice will help you make your child’s life more comfortable.
Spotting the Signs
Some signs of bullying are obvious, especially if your child is being physically hurt. However, even emotional and verbal bullying can have a clear effect on a young person. The following signs don’t automatically indicate bullying but If your child is withdrawn, sleeping poorly or worried about going to school, they could be being bullied.
At this point, you may consider asking them if there’s a problem.
Talking to your Child
This all depends on the child’s age. But regardless, it’s important to put your feelings aside first. Knowing your child is being bullied is a horrible thing but becoming overly emotional about it in front of them will do little to help either of you discuss it.
Remain calm and gently approach the subject. This might mean asking them about bullying in general terms; what it means to them and why it’s hurtful. The main thing is to develop trust around this particularly difficult issue Once they’re comfortable talking about it with you, their willingness to share their experience with someone at school who might be able to help more directly —be it a teacher, TA or headteacher—may grow.
Increasingly, bullying these days takes place on social media. It’s difficult and often unrealistic to simply stop a young person from going online but being aware of your child’s digital life may help if issues do arise. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they enjoy most about being online and take interest in what they are doing online. If they mention that they are being bullied online, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to keep records of instances (which is perfectly possible with the likes of screenshots) which may help them resolve the issue.
What to do About it
Once you’ve spoken to your child about bullying, please don’t threaten to speak to the headteacher. Many children fear reprisals and simply storming off to talk to an adult at the school can make them even more anxious.
Instead, ask them if they would like you to take this approach. Your child may be willing to work with you, but only if they’re involved.
Otherwise, the charity Bullying UK recommends a number of things. The first recommendation is to tell your child that being bullied is absolutely not their fault.
They also suggest encouraging your child to be confident, even if they don’t feel it. Many bullies are simply seeking a reaction, and if their victim seems unphased, they’ll go away. Bullying can dent a child’s confidence but this can be rebuilt by reinforcing positive messages about their abilities and self-worth, or by surrounding them with people who support them – like family, close friends or even teachers.
Finally, Bullying UK advises parents to inspire children to pursue interests outside of school, whether it’s a new hobby, a different sport, a musical instrument or something less structured that challenges them physically, intellectually or creatively. These sorts of things can make a child develop a real sense of confidence.
Many young people in our community will sadly be the victims of racially motivated bullying. As a parent, you can deal with it in much the same way as other forms of bullying. However, there is one significant difference.
Racist bullying is a crime. Put simply, you have every right to call the police if your child is being racially bullied at school, whether or not it seems like teachers are dealing with it appropriately. Schools are legally required to keep records of racist bullying, meaning police can often intervene in an effective manner.
If you need more information on bullying, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Bullying Helpline.
For further support and workshops, visit Odara.
Tel: 0845 22 55 787
We recently had the privilege of hosting Nicola Benyahia at ODARA. In summer 2015 Nicola’s son, Rasheed, left the family home in Birmingham to begin…