Top tips on helping your child overcome bullying
- Talk about bullying at home – before it happens. Each year anti-bullying week is a good reminder to have a family discussion about bullying -what is it, who does it, what can you do to prevent or stop it. Have a ‘family night’ or ‘family meeting’ – brainstorm ideas, encourage your children to talk about what they see at school and how they feel. If you are open about topics like this, your children are more likely to come to you when bullying occurs. Bullying thrives on silence and secrecy, encourage your children to break the cycle.
- Teach your children to deal with minor teasing by discussing the different things children can be mean about and how to react in these situations. A bully can be thought of as a fisherman – he puts out his bait & looks for a ‘fish’ to reel up and then gets his kicks from bullying them. If the fish keep biting, the fisherman thinks he has scored and will come back for more. If your child can recognise this and learn not to ‘bite-back’ they will have learnt an important life skill, the ‘fisherman’ will get bored and go elsewhere.
- If your child tells you they are being bullied believe them – don’t try to minimise, rationalise or explain the behaviour away. They need to know you are ‘on their side’ and will support them through this.
- Help your child to practise being assertive – role-play either with you as the ‘bully’ or in front of a mirror. Get them to practise saying things like ‘Go away’ ‘Leave me alone’ – with a firm, loud tone of voice.
- Tell someone – a child who is being bullied must be given the opportunity and encouraged to talk about their experience. School should be informed and should have anti-bullying policies in place, ask to see their written policies and follow-up – make sure you as a parent know what is being done about bullying in your child’s school.
- What if your child is the bully? Ask them to think about ‘why’ they are bullying – do they even recognise it as ‘bullying’ or do they think it is a ‘bit of fun’, does the other person ‘wind them up’, do they enjoy the sense of power? See if they can understand how the person they are bullying might feel. Work with the school to find positive solutions, it is important that you are there to support your child through this however difficult the process may be.
- Mobile phones & cyber-bullying – again talk to your children about this before it happens. Help them to recognise malicious calls/texts/e-mails and what they should do about it: turn-off the device (many young people don’t realise they can switch their mobiles off!) and tell an adult. Teach them to be safe: don’t reply to text messages or emails from people you don’t know and don’t give out information about yourself.