Our guest blogger tells her story of how she dealt with her child being bullied.
Bullying is now a common problem in schools especially but can happen at work or even at home. I have seen the effects of bullying and it is devastating for the child involved, but also the parents who love them. It raises a lot of questions and certainly, in my case, I was unsure what steps to take, and how I could help her without adding to her trauma.
Here is my story on how we deal with it. There are a few tips here and I would urge all parents (whether your child has or hasn’t been bullied) to have a read.
Signs of bullying
All children are different, but if you notice any sudden change in your child’s behaviour there usually is a reason.
- You might notice unexplained bruises or injuries that your child is trying to conceal or that they are moodier than usual and emotional.
- In some cases, your child might have no appetite, with little interest in doing anything, and a sure-fire sign is them not sleeping well or looking increasingly anxious. My daughter started getting night terrors and I knew something was up, but she is stubborn and it took days to get her to open up.
When you are concerned, you need to find out what is happening in the best way possible, whether this means asking them directly or asking a few questions about school and friends. I actually sat down with my youngest to read a book to her on bullying.
She had just started junior infants and being a responsible parent I wanted her to understand being mean was hurtful to others. While reading the little book, my eldest started crying and ran up to her room, my suspicions were correct - my child was being bullied.
- Once they have opened up to you, your child needs your support. It is important to listen to what they have to say so that you understand the full story.
- Try to be calm and don’t overreact.
- Praise them for telling you and explain what you are going to do about it.
- Reassure your child that they are not the problem and the bully is behaving badly - they should not feel ashamed. My daughter had numerous nasty texts on her phone from the day before and she roared crying when she told us what had actually happened to her. My husband and I were so devastated. We thought she was safe at school and she had been burdened with this for weeks.
Plan of Action
- After you have discussed it with your child you should contact their school and try to arrange a meeting with their class teacher as soon as possible.
- Take evidence (if any) and notes if your child remembers of any dates, times and incidents.
- It is natural to feel angry towards the school as they are responsible for your child's safety while they are there, however, try to work with the teacher and not apportion blame. The fact of the matter is there are huge numbers in classes and predominately bullying occurs on breaks and before/after school when adults are not around to see.
- The teacher will probably want to arrange a meeting between you and the other parents, or they may choose to meet with the other parents first to avoid any conflict. In our case, my kid’s teacher was amazing and so easy to talk to, and she offered to ring the other child’s parents. The parents took it well and in fairness, rang to apologise however they did see the evidence (as it was on their child’s phone). I do wonder would they have believed us otherwise?
- In most cases, the bullies parents react well to the issue and are totally oblivious to the bullying, however, it is now that you need them to be proactive (with their child) to protect your child from any more harm. It takes a bit of working together, and certainly a huge amount of patience and forgiveness.
- Now is the time you need to tell your child that if any bullying in any form happens again, they must stand their ground, act brave and walk away from their tormentor.
- Try to ensure that they have a pal and are not alone for periods of time to avoid any problems.
- They must also understand to tell an adult or any person they trust if any more bullying surfaces immediately so it can be nipped in the bud.
- For weeks I drove my child mad asking questions but after a while, I relaxed and I knew she will tell me if anything is wrong. I also got her involved in sports (which she loves) and it has made such a difference to her self-confidence.
- Make sure you always chat with each other about your days and always ask questions if they seem upset about something especially if it continues.
There is always a way forward though and I am a testament to that. However hard, light is at the end of the tunnel.