It is heart wrenching knowing that your child is being bullied, and for kids it can be a soul-crushing experience. Parents can feel powerless as they cannot protect their child from what is happening at school. Thankfully, there are steps that parents can take to support children.
What is Anti-Bullying Week 2023?
This year the theme is Make A Noise About Bullying- an empowering message to speak up against being cruel to others.
So, what can you as a parent do to support your child?
How to help a child being bullied
So, what can you do if your child is being targeted, or beforehand to help them avoid problems? We asked Nicola Baldwin, Parenting Lead at Spurgeons charity, how parents can help.
Talk about friendships
Before bullying occurs, and from a younger age, it can help for parents to talk about friendships with children. ‘Talk about what makes a good friend, and what doesn’t,’ advises Nicola. ‘Children can’t sometimes understand what constitutes bullying, so talking through the dynamics of friendships can help.’
Empower your child
Help your child to work through the problem with you, rather than taking away their agency in the matter. ‘Ask them to explain exactly what has been happening, and if anyone else has seen, and whether there is anyone who can stand up for them- a good friend would help,’ advises Nicola.
It’s not your fault
Explain to your child that while the bullying feels personal, it’s not their fault and they shouldn’t feel bad. The bully has chosen to bully them, not the other way around.
Coping at school
Ask your child if they can tell a friend what’s been happening, and also tell a teacher. ‘There can be this idea of “snitching” being bad amongst children,’ says Nicola, ‘but physical bullying is a criminal offence, and the bully is wrong, not the victim.’
Also, inform the school yourself of what has been happening, and check their anti-bullying policy.
Keep a diary
Take notes of what happens, when they occur and involving whom. This is then evidence to show the school.
Validate their feelings
‘Don’t dismiss any worries around friendships,’ says Nicola. ‘You need to acknowledge how they’re feeling and encourage open communication between you.’ Bullying can sometimes be subtle- e.g. following someone around, or making comments under their breath, so talking through those incidents helps your child understand that they are not good behaviours.
Nicola advises parents to look through the Human Rights Bill with your child, as a way to explain that they have a right to be treated nicely by others. Once they understand that they have a right to good treatment, you can then encourage your child to ask bullies to leave them alone. This might not work, of course, but it’s important to empower them.
‘How would it feel to say no?’
If you’re concerned about certain friendships in your child’s life, a good way to talk it through is asking whether your child would feel comfortable saying no to their friend. For example, if the friend wants them to accompany them to a shop while they steal a drink, would your child feel ok about saying no? If not, this shows that they aren’t completely at ease with that friendship and don’t feel they can be themselves or be listened to.
Encourage seeking out good friends
Social ties can be difficult as a teenager-but you can encourage kids to figure out who the nice friends are. The good friends are the ones who will sit with your child when they are sad, and they feel comfortable around. It’s important for children to also feel that they can be themselves with friends- feeling at ease with someone is often the true test of a good friendship.
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