While the first few weeks of school are exciting for a child, they can also be scary. Children are getting used to a new building, classroom, teacher, and a new social situation. This is a prime time for bullies who will seek out a child who isn’t settling in.
If the parents and teachers act immediately, and if a child does not act like a victim, the bullying should stop fairly quickly. So the important thing is to be observant in the first few weeks and act quickly if you suspect there could be bullying happening.
Types of bullying:
Some parents may not be totally sure what classifies as bullying. Bullying can take several forms. All forms of bullying will involve repeated instances and an imbalance of power.
- Physical bullying: Everything from tripping and hair-pulling to hitting and stealing, this is most obvious form of bullying.
- Verbal bullying: Name-calling, threatening, taunting, and slurs are verbal forms of bulling.
- Relationship bullying: This bullying includes gossip and rumour-spreading which will disrupt peer relationships. This is most common among girls and is meant to cause public embarrassment and isolate someone.
- Cyber bulling: This is a more recent form of bullying but is becoming more and more common as technology develops. Threatening emails, text messages and social-networking posts is a very easy way for bullies to target their victims. Due to the anonymity of cyber bullying, bullying is becoming more common.
Signs your child is being bullied:
Children often won’t tell their parents if they are being bullied, either because they are embarrassed or they are afraid. Here are signs to look out for:
- A sudden change in personality, unexplained mood swings, uncharacteristic anger, social withdrawal or acting out.
- A loss in appetite
- Daily stomach aches or headaches or refusal to go to school
- A decline in performance in school work
- Unexplained scratches or bruises, or torn or soiled clothes
Certain types of children are also more likely to be targets of bullies. Sadly, children with special-needs can be picked on because of their differences, whether it is physical or social.
Children who are particularly sensitive, have low self-esteem, lack social boundaries, fail to defend and stand up for themselves, or have very few friends are the most common targets. Bullies will pick on children that are either passive or easy to provoke.
What to do:
Here are suggested approaches to take:
- If you think your child is being bullied, try asking them open-ended questions – “What was the best thing that happened today?” and “what was the worst?” You can also ask direct questions about bullying, whether your child has experienced it or witnessed it.
- If your child tells you that they are bullied, thank them for being brave enough to tell you. Listen to them, tell them it’s not their fault, validate her feelings, and ask them what would help them feel safer.
- Never ignore your child’s concerns regarding bullying. Do not tell them to tough it out or fight back. Do not speak to the bully’s parents on your own as a first step. Sometimes, a child might ask their parents not to do anything, as they wish to resolve the situation themselves. In this case, evaluate the extent of the bullying and whether or not your child is safe. More than likely, however, if a child is telling you they are being bullied, it has gotten to the point where you will have to intervene.
- Tell your child to stand up for themselves and not to tolerate it. Tell them to remove themselves from the situation and to try not to get upset as this is what the bully wants.
- Report the bulling to the school. If the physical violence is severe, you may have to go to the guards. Work with the school to find a solution.
Most schools are pro-active and supportive in dealing with bullying however there may be times when you feel the need to seek help outside of the school. Here are some organisation who may be able to help.