The Summer holidays are almost over and no doubt many parents will be looking forward to some peace and quiet but there will be some children who will be dreading their return to school. For children who have been bullied returning to school can be a dreadful time.
If you think that your child is being bullied, what can you do? Children are often reluctant to say they are being bullied for fear of recrimination but there are tell tale signs which may give them away:
While many children don’t love school, bullied children may complain of being ill or make all manner of excuses not to go to school.
Has your child’s behaviour changed? Are they more nervous and withdrawn? If there is a drastic change in behaviour then this could mean that they are being bullied. This one is difficult because teenagers change and it could just mean that they are now just stroppy teenagers!
Have they lost friends or changed their friendship group? This could be because their friends have been bullying or they are afraid of the bullies too.
So, if you suspect that your child is being bullied, what can you do to help and empower them? Give them as many opportunities as possible to open up and tell you about the bullying, if they don’t then ask questions and listen to them without judgement. The more you understand about what’s going on, the more you can help.
As parents, what we really want to do when we see that our child is hurting is to jump in and save them, but we need to help them to be strong before we step up. In my experience, only children are often victims of bullying because they don’t learn to negotiate and stand up for themselves with their siblings but they are not the only ones. It is this ability to stand up for themselves and be confident that we want to instill in a victim of bullying.
You can do this by talking about the situations where your child has been the target of bullying and discuss what they could have done differently. Talk through the situations helping them to find different solutions. Explain that it is not their fault but most situations can be handled in a number of ways and this is what we are looking for, we can’t change someone else’s behaviour but we can change how we react.
If after your discussion the bullying is worse than you’d anticipated then you may have to take some action. If they are too scared to confront the bully, it is probably time to speak with someone at the school to see how they can help. Talking to the right member of staff may give your child more confidence, knowing that someone in school knows what’s been happening. There should be a plan discussed, if your child feels threatened what they shall do, for instance they may have a safe space to go to and report the incident.
If the bullying has been ongoing they may also need some intervention work to bolster their confidence again. One thing that I would advise against is keeping your child off school. Once a child has been off school it is often far harder for them to return again, they are not at fault and keeping them off school will not benefit them at all.
Ultimately, try and keep the lines of communication open and enable your child to face difficulties rather than jumping in too soon. If your child is able to overcome some obstacles then they will grow in confidence. The aim is to equip them with the tools to succeed in life.