Is my child being bullied?

Child Bullying

Learning for the first time that your child is being bullied can be difficult and distressing for parents. You may feel angry, upset, confused or guilty that this is happening to your child. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, after all, you probably weren’t aware of the problem.

Children can hide what they feel very well so don’t be upset with yourself for not spotting the problem. What’s important is that you begin to communicate with your child (and school if that’s where the bullying is taking place) so you can put a stop to the bullying.

Bullying can affect anyone and at any age. Bullying typically involves one person subjecting another to physical or verbal harassment. In today’s society, Cyberbullying takes place on social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo as well as via mobile phones.

Child bullying usually takes the form of petty name-calling, physical threats or assault. While physical harm is serious, the emotional and psychological damage can be worse. Children who are bullied are deeply unhappy and can feel inadequate, shameful and have low self-esteem. Without help, they can develop serious long-term mental health conditions such as depression.

How do I know if my child is being bullied?

There are some obvious, and not so obvious signs that your child is being subjected to bullying. Here are some common signs and excuses children display that can indicate they are being bullied:

– A sudden desire not to go to school
– Regular claims of being too ill to go to school
– Poor performance at school
– Doesn’t want to leave the house
– Mood swings
– Aggression toward siblings
– Becoming quiet and withdrawn
– Has fallen out with friends
– Trouble sleeping
– Anxious
– Stressed
– Torn clothing
– Regularly returning home bruised or cut
– Possessions stolen (many children claim their things have been ‘lost’)

If your child is displaying any of these, the first thing to do is not over-react. There may be a legitimate reason why they are being that way – it could be another problem or they may be suffering with an ailment. If you suspect they might be physically ill, consult with your local GP.

If you believe your child is being bullied, don’t get angry and demand something be done by the school or their friend’s parents – you could end up getting in trouble yourself and that doesn’t help anyone. Your child may have covered up their feelings so well that nobody else has noticed the problem. Schoolteachers have to deal with many children and they’re not always able to be at your child’s side throughout the day. Parents of friends are not always around to supervise so they could be in the dark about things too.

Be sure that your child is being bullied by asking a few simple questions during a moment when you’re not busy. If you have a slightly younger child, ask them:

– What happened at school today?
– What did you do that you enjoyed?
– Was there anything you didn’t like
– Who did you spend playtime with?
– What games did you play at break?
– Did you have fun?
– Were there any other games you would have liked to play with some other children?
– Are you looking forward to going back to school tomorrow?
– How are all your friends?

If your child is older, try asking these simple questions:

– What did you get up to at lunch today?
– Are there any friends you’d like to invite home?
– Which lessons don’t you like at school?
– Are there any reasons why you don’t like those lessons?
– Are there any kids at school you don’t get on with?
– Why do you think you don’t get on with them?
– Are you looking forward to going back to school tomorrow?

How can I help my child if they are being bullied?

Let’s first address the issues with Cyberbullying. Mobile phones and the internet are easy ways for bullies to target other children so make sure you’re aware of what your child is doing with their phone and internet access.

Tell your child to be wary of giving out their number. If they are receiving abusive calls or texts, make a note of the times, names and numbers the messages are coming from and don’t delete or reply to them. If needs be, take this information to the Police – making abusive or anonymous calls is against the law. Buy another SIM card for your child’s phone so the bullies can no longer contact them.

Social Networking Websites
Make your child aware that should they see anything on the internet that upsets them or if they’ve been contacted by someone suggesting something that they find uncomfortable to let you know. If you find anything on the computer that could be used as evidence don’t delete it.

Make sure your child’s passwords for website accounts are unusual, contain numbers and letters and not be something that other people can guess. If they suspect someone has their passwords and login details change them.

Social networking sites are common ways for bullies to target other children. Rumours, gossip, threats abuse and blackmail are used on these sites as a way to bully so if your child sees anything directly targeting them print out a copy for evidence.

Anybody over the age of 10 that makes threats to your child is committing a criminal act. If rude comments are made, don’t let your child comment back. Rumours and gossip are usually without truth but make sure your child never reveals personal secrets to people. False and malicious information posted on the internet can be seen as harassment which is against the law.

Who to speak to?
You should contact your school if you discover your child is being bullied. Working together with your child’s teacher and head-teacher you should be able to resolve the issue without it escalating. If the bullying is severe and involves harassment, you and the school should contact the local Police.

If the bullying is taking place outside of school and by children you thought were friends of your child, get in touch with their parents to discuss the issue. Remember not to over-react as the parents could be as shocked as you are. Your child could also be involved with the bullying too. Calmly sit down and discuss the problem before drawing any conclusions.

Bullying is affecting my child’s health – what can I do?

If you’re child comes home with serious physical injuries you should take them for medical attention immediately. Usually the main issue relating to bullying is the emotional and psychological effects on your child. Your GP should first diagnose your child with having problems before seeking therapy. Once this has taken place, there are some extremely beneficial therapies that can help your child overcome their problem.

Counselling is one of the best ways to help your child with problems that have arisen from bullying. Counselling can be conducted on a one-to-one basis or as family therapy whereby your child and other family members can be present.

Counselling is an effective way to support your child during this traumatic time. Bullying counselling can help children to re-engage with others and teach them coping strategies that will boost self-esteem and confidence. And by being actively involved with the sessions, parents can also deal with their issues of anger and guilt.

Find a counsellor to help with child bullying here

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