If you suspect your child or a child you know is being bullied, here are some tips on how to spot the signs and how to approach the situation:
Signs a child is being bullied:
Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewellery
Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. (they may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch)
Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
Self-destructive behaviours such as running away from home, harming themselves, or troublesome behaviour
It is just important to be able to spot the signs that your child might be bullying others so this behaviour can be nipped in the bud and the right help can be given.
Signs a child is bullying others:
Get into physical or verbal fights
Have friends who bully others
Are increasingly aggressive
Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
Blame others for their problems
Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
What to do if you think your child is being bullied:
DONT PANIC - explain to your child that the bullying is not their fault and that together you will sort it out
LISTEN WITHOUT GETTING UPSET/ANGRY - Put your own feelings aside, sit down and actually listen to what your child is telling you
REASSURE THEM IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT - There’s still a stigma attached to bullying and some children feel they’ve brought it upon themselves
ESTABLISH THE FACTS - get your child to explain exactly what has happened, keep a diary of events and if the bullying is online, save screen shots and copies of text messages
KEEP YOUR CHILD INFORMED - it is important not to take over the situation but to guide your child to take the necessary steps needed to help sort out the situation. Always keep you child informed of any action you decide to take
DONT ENCOURAGE RETALIATION - your child may get in to trouble or get even more hurt by retaliating. Instead, advise on ways to respond in non violent ways - what to say to bullies, how to block or unfriend people online and help them identify other friends and adults that can support them
DONT LET BULLYING DOMINATE THEIR LIFE - Help your child develop new skills in a new area by getting involved in activities which dont revolve around where the bullying is taking place. This might mean encouraging them to join a club or activity like drama or self-defence. This builds confidence, helps keep the problem in perspective and offers a chance to make new friends.
NEVER DISMISS THEIR EXPERIENCE - If your child has plucked up the courage to tell you about bullying, it’s crushing to be told to "sort it out yourself" or "it’s all part of growing up." Don’t tell them to ignore it.
Getting support from the school:
Before you approach the school, list all the facts: what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your child did that may have provoked the incident, whether it was a one-off or series of events.
• Don’t arrive at the school unexpectedly: Make an appointment with the class teacher or head of year.
• Aim to work together with the school and make it clear that you are seeking the school's help in finding a solution.
• Avoid accusing the school: Remember that teachers are usually the last to find out that bullying is happening at school. The sequence is "friends first, then parents, lastly schools".
• Be patient: Allow the school time to deal with the problem but stay in touch with them and arrange a follow up meeting to see how the situation is being resolved.
What to do if things dont improve:
Keep a bullying diary. Write down every incident as soon as possible after it happens. Include the date, what happened, who did it and who saw it. Include the effect on your child, whether your child told anyone and what they said or did and any later effects.
Tell the school each time. Write down what they say or do and any effect their actions have. Schools have a variety of options for dealing with bullying. These range from a warning, seeing the bully’s parents and detention to internal exclusion within the school, fixed term exclusion and permanent exclusion.
If you’re not satisfied with the school’s response, don’t give up - the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) offers step-by-step advice on how to deal with the school, from how to write a letter to your options if you need to take things further.
Download the Anti Bullying Pack