At last the Summer break is over and children are back to school to the relief of many a parent. My two teen boys went back Thursday and Friday last week. They, like most children, are happy to be back thrilled about moving up to a new school year and of course six weeks is a long long time away from friends in a child’s mind.
Bullying at school and out of the school grounds sadly means not every child and or parent is that excited about going back to school.
We send our children to school for the best possible education and in the hope that they will be in a safe environment; unfortunately this is not the experience of many children. In 2003 ChildLine a UK charity, reported that up to 45,000 children spoke them about bullying. According to the NSPCC’s figures half of children and young people (46%) have been bullied at school at some point in their lives. Shocking isn’t it? Yes, that is too many children.
You will be surprised how many people see bullying as nothing more than just kids mucking about. The truth however is that bullying is damn serious and whilst it isn’t a new phenomenon it often leads to violence if left unchecked and stopped, with devastating consequences for the victims while still at school and very often much into adult life.
As parents, we owe it to our children and young persons to be aware of bullying and of it’s short as well as long term effects.
Bullying, What Is It?
It isn’t just kids mucking about. To answer the question without sugar coating it, bullying is a form of abuse perpetrated by others on another and is usually carried out in the presence of other children to cause distress, embarrassment, instil fear and to humiliate. A cowardly and unacceptable behaviour.
Touch wood, none of my boys in high school have had to go through the sad experience of bullying and I hope they never do. Their eldest brother now 23 was shoved from behind, fell and broke his wrist in his first year of high school. As a parent, the first thought that races through your mind is wondering if this was a deliberate act. Our son didn’t think it was, and after the school’s thorough investigation we were also satisfied it was an accident and nothing more.
Forms of Bullying
As mentioned earlier, bullying is unacceptable and shouldn’t be condoned with or excused regardless of the shape or form it is ‘dressed’ in. The following list is not by any means exhaustive:
Pushing and shoving
Taking one’s possessions without consent
Exclusion from groups
Causing physical or emotional harm
Compared to yester years we now live in a fast and ever changing communication era where our children at a touch of a button, are able to easily connect with friends, and I must add even total strangers via smart phones and on online gaming machines. Whilst there are many advantages to this technological breakthroughs it also affords a lot of opportunity for online bullying, and this is what Cyber bullying is all about.
Are you as a parent conversant with what your teen is up to online? It’s not like they will willingly tell us, but we need to be aware of the dangers they could be exposed to in order to protect them not from bullies alone but from sexual predators too.
The Sad Effects of Bullying
What appears like children just mucking about in school playgrounds etc., can indeed be a devastating scar through out the lives of many victims of bullying.
Bullying doesn’t just cause sadness, it affects a child’s confidence and makes it almost impossible to trust people. Happy and contented children can all of a sudden become sullen, timid and withdrawn. Suffer from fear and anxiety.
Depression, low self-esteem, isolation, aggression , tendency to self-harm or entertaining suicidal thoughts, and yes, there has been cases where children as young as 12 have taken their own lives as a direct response to bullying.
My Child Wouldn’t Hurt A Fly, Why ?
It is distressing to any parent to know that their child is a victim of bullying at school and often times there are more questions than there are answers.
I am privileged through my work in social care to have spoken to a number of parents who’s child or children have had the unfortunate experience of being bullied. One question I am often asked is ‘why him or why her?”
The fact of the matter is that bullies will target children sometimes without any apparent reason other than the stupid seeming power they can have over them, and the massaging of their own bruised ego. Having said that, bullies will pick on other children because of the colour of their skin or race, religion or faith, the way they speak or look, their disability, home circumstances, sexual orientation and sometimes (wait for this…) for being clever in class.
It is important to stress that some of these children (bullies) do need help themselves, but I guess this is the least of your concerns right now.
Helping Your Child Prevent or Stop Being A Victim
Now, first things first…Is your child able to approach you and talk if they are in trouble of any sorts? I sincerely hope you answered ‘yes’. We must create an environment where our children feels safe to discuss what is heavy and is weighing on their minds. That surely is a good starting point.
Having the ‘talk’ with your child about bullying just like addressing at the appropriate time issues on drugs, alcohol and sex can make a big difference in how they are prepared and are able to fend off bullying at the onset.
It is imperative that children know what abuse and bullying is and who to report to should things that makes them uncomfortable happen. That no one, a child for that matter needs to put up with bullying but also to stress the point that resorting to violence is not a solution to the problem whilst being assertive works a lot better than walking away and saying nothing.
Your child being able to speak to someone either yourself, a trusted adult, a teacher or a dedicated confidential telephone service such as ChildLine is bound to help arrest the situation even though in most cases children feel things will get worse should they speak up.
Do seek help and support for your child and yourself where necessary. The school has an obligation to try to prevent all forms of bullying and will work with you if approached. If the bullying occurs after school and outside the school then it would be advisable for your son to walk home with someone or be picked up from school.
What If Your Child Is The Bully?
A discovery like this will send chills down the spine of any well meaning parent, and of course will be met with anger, betrayal and disappointment. As this isn’t the kind of behaviour that we wish our children would or should portray one might even be in denial that their child could be a bully.
Putting aside the emotional feelings and get to work at seeking professional help for your child is essential. Talk to them on a heart level and be attentive to what they have to say. What has led to them bullying another child? Hopefully between your talk, actively listening and professional help your son will come to understand and appreciate that it is wrong and unacceptable to bully other children and they will have the help they so badly need.
This is a confidential helpline service for children and young people. It is open 24 hours each day.
They offer practical advice and information about bullying for young people.
EACH is for young people and adults affected by homophobia or transphobia bullying. It operates on weekdays from 9am to 5pm and 10am to 12pm Saturdays.
I truly hope that this new school year will be a good one for all children, that those who need help to feel safer would get the necessary support to STOP bullying.