According to a shocking new survey conducted by the YMCA, over half of the children in England and Wales are bullied. Bullying has always been prevalent amongst young people, but since the dawn of the all-seeing, all-commenting, all-tweeting eagle eye of social media, this behaviour now has the capacity to be even more pernicious and harmful. The effects of bullying can be devastating; its known to affect school performance, cause low self-esteem, and trigger anxiety and depression. Needless to say, bulling can be immensely upsetting for child and parent alike. Thankfully, though, there are things you can do as a parent to diffuse the situation and support your little one. So, how can parents alleviate bullying? Listen up.
It’s important to put your feelings aside and actively listen to your child when she opens up to you. Though it may be hard, listen without getting upset or angry. Demonstrate that you’ve absorbed everything she’s said by relaying the details. Rather than dominating and deciding the next course of action – making her feel excluded and potentially exacerbating her stress levels – ask her: ‘how would you like me to move forward with this?’ Allow her to exercise agency over the matter.
More often than not, children say nasty things to provoke a reaction. So, if your child gives the impression she isn’t fazed by the words and actions, the bullies are more likely to stop. Teach your child that no matter how bad the bullying gets, fighting back is never the answer. Instead, encourage her to walk away and get help from a supervising adult. It can help to role-play hypothetical scenarios with your child to practice her responses, too. Explain body language – her tone of voice and facial expressions – send out messages in the same way her words do, and she must use this to her advantage.
Reassure your child the bullying isn’t her fault; she didn’t bring it on herself. Point to celebrities and influential people that have been bullied, too, emphasising that it can happen to people of all walks of life It’s true: Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Justin Timberlake were the victims of bullying when they were younger. Teach your child that bullies aren’t strong, and being bullied doesn’t make someone weak.
Help your child relax
It comes as no surprise that bullying can severely affect your child’s self-confidence. To counter this, encourage her to do things that make her feel good, such as joining a new club or starting a hobby. These activities won’t only distract your child from the burden of bullying, but it will help to build confidence, provide the opportunity to make friends, and put the problem of bullying into perspective.
Talk to your child’s teacher
Remember, the onus isn’t entirely on you to put an end to the bullying. Your child’s teacher can – and should – help where possible. As soon as your child tells you about her experience, get in touch with her school immediately. The school should have guidelines on how best to intervene. Make sure you’re specific about who was involved and what happened when you report an incident. Above all, be patient. Give the school enough time to deal with the situation. In the future, it can be helpful to keep a ‘bully diary’ where you write down every episode as soon as it happens.
Contact the offender’s parents
If you’re dissatisfied with the school’s response or the bullying persists, it might be time to contact the offender’s parents. Email or call them in a cooperative, non-confrontational way; avoid hostility and argumentativeness. Make it clear that your goal is to settle the problem as a team. You could say something like: “I’m calling you because my daughter has come home distressed every day this week. She explained that Emma excluded her from games and called her hurtful names. I’m not too sure if Emma has told you this, but I would like us to help them get along. Do you have any ideas about how we could do this?”