There was a time when school bullying was considered a childhood rite of passage. Luckily it is today recognised as a serious problem as it can be devastating for the child’s self-esteem and confidence and can even leave deep emotional scars.
Anything from being seen as nerdy, liking the wrong clothes to being overweight can make children easy targets for bullies who intimidate, harass and sometimes even harm their victims. Bullying can take many forms, physical, verbal, psychological as well as social and electronic. It could include anything from hitting, name-calling, pushing, threats, and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Some children bully by not including others in their games or activities or spreading rumours about them. Others use social media or electronic messaging to taunt others or hurt their feelings. Bullying should be taken seriously and not brushed off as something the child should learn to handle on his own.
Unless your child tells you about the bullying, it can be difficult to figure out what is going on. However, there are some signs you can look out for like anxiousness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, moodiness, avoiding certain social situations, headaches, stomach aches or other similar complaints.
Children normally do not tell parents or other adults about bullying as they feel embarrassed and ashamed. They worry that parents will be angry, upset or disappointed. Sometimes they feel it is their fault and that it wouldn’t be happening had they looked or behaved differently. Sometimes they are scared the bullying will get worse if they tell someone about it.
If your child does tell you about being bullied, listen carefully and offer support and comfort. Make the child understand that it is not his fault. Explain that it is the bully who has personal issues with himself that makes him behave in the way he does. Learn about the situation and what exactly the bully is doing. Ask him what he has done to stop the bullying, as well as what has worked and what hasn’t.
Teach your child to ignore the bully as when the bully doesn’t get a reaction, he normally gets bored and moves on. Suggest sticking with friends when the bullying seems to happen. Boost your child’s self-confidence. Encourage him to build friendships and get involved in activities that emphasise his strengths and talents. Participation in clubs, sports or other enjoyable activities builds strength and friendships. Last but not the least, contact the appropriate authorities like a teacher, principal or even speak with the bully’s parents.