Bullying negatively affects the mental health and academic outcomes of affected children.
If your child is being bullied, what can you do to help?
Despite national focus and many high profile campaigns, sadly bullying still affects many children – particularly in schools. New research shows one in four Australian children report being bullied frequently (every few weeks or more), with behaviours peaking in Years 5 and 8.
Spot the signs
Many parents are unaware that their child is being bullied – part of the problem is that kids don’t want to talk about it. Often they feel ashamed, concerned the bullying will increase if they talk about it, or they may worry about how their parents will respond.
Signs your child may be being bullied include:
Frequent headaches and tummy aches especially on school days.
Change in eating habits.
Tearfulness or increased angry outbursts at home.
Reluctance to attend school.
Nightmares or difficulties sleeping.
Changes in performance at school.
How parents can help:
Research shows that warm and responsive parental responses play an important role in developing children’s resilience to the bullying. If your child tells you they are being bullied;
Listen with the intent to understand your child’s experience and how they feel. If you have a strong emotional reaction try not overreact. It is also important not to dismiss your child’s experience – bullying is not a normal part of growing up.
Validate their experience: After listening take a moment to let your child know that you understand, and that how they feel is valid. Remind them it is not their fault.
Praise: Let them know they did the right thing by telling you and that bullying is never ok.
Brainstorm strategies these might include:
Standing up to the bully by being assertive (role play with your child).
Not showing the bully that you are upset.
Avoiding the bully or bullies in the playground or;
Sitting near teachers at lunch or recess.
Build resiliency at home: Encourage your child to build positive friendships, increase play dates/hangouts with friends, and build a sense of mastery and self-esteem through engagement in out of school activities.
Approach the school: If your child is unable to solve the problem quickly through these and other strategies, you may need to approach the child’s teacher or year coordinator. Ask the teacher if they can help to keep your child safe and assist in resolving the issue.
When nothing works:
Despite the best efforts by parents, sometimes bullying continues. If this is your family’s experience you may need to consider moving your child to another school. Involve your child in this decision and remember that no one should have to endure bullying. Giving our children this clear message early teaches them an important life long lesson.
This article was written by Dr Clair Lawson of Clair Lawson Psychology: https://www.lawsonpsychology.com.au