For many children, school is an exciting opportunity, not only for academic learning but also for learning about themselves through new and untested social interactions with their peers and teachers.
However, sometimes this new experience of social integration can bring with it challenges such as bullying. Without witnessing bullying behaviour yourself, it can be difficult as a parent or caregiver to know whether your child may need help.
WHY DO SOME CHILDREN BULLY OTHER CHILDREN?
A number of factors might influence the reasons why one child will feel motivated to bully another, some of them might include; witnessing aggression at home and lack of sufficient parental presence or nurturing at home.
Some children may perhaps see violence framed in a positive way, and as result, feel as if they too can use violent and aggressive behaviour towards other children and even adults. These kids might also develop a ‘hot-headed’ personality, or display other antisocial tendencies, as well as being unable to comprehend the emotional experiences of their peers.
Research also suggests that some children who bully, may themselves have been the target of similar behaviour in the past. Their past experience, in conjunction with their family life, can sometimes manifest as low self-esteem or feeling powerless. Also the ‘cooler’ kids in school are also perceived to be the most aggressive by their peers.
The form of aggression is same for boys and girls. Pushing, shoving and gossiping all work the same for boys and girls.
The growth of social media has also given rise to bullying behaviour outside of school hours. Cyber bullying can be done anonymously and occurs 24 hours a day.
HOW CAN I SPOT THE SIGNS OF BULLYING?
It can sometimes be difficult to detect whether or not your child is being bullied, as not every child will react in the same way. In addition, such warning signs might not be immediately apparent, depending on the type of bullying, e.g. physical aggression, verbal taunting, cyber bullying.
Often children who are experiencing bullying will refuse to discuss what is wrong with their parents, as well as being subject to unexpected mood swings, anxiety or crying. They may also be reluctant to get out bed or go to school, or could become fearful about going to school at all.
Upon coming home from school, you might find that your child is missing possessions or has unexplained cuts or bruises. If they start to frequently come home hungry, or start to ask for more food or lunch money to take to school, it could potentially be a sign that their food is being taken from them.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD HANDLE BULLYING AT SCHOOL?
Parents and carers can help children tackle bullying at school, as parents, talk openly and honestly with your kids and let them know you are concerned about their safety and wellbeing at school, walk/drive them to school and back in the first week of school if possible, let your children know that there is lots of help available for them, help them to build support networks by organising play days with their classmates.
If you suspect bullying, but your child is reluctant to open up, you might want to try to find less direct ways to raise the topic. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it to start the conversation, for instance, asking, “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?” This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?” You could also talk to your child about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.
It is also important to take an interest in your child’s online behaviour. Ask them what social media platforms they use, whether they have seen bullying online before, ask if it has happened to them and spend some time discussing it. Role playing is a great way to aid them in handling the problem appropriately. If your child has been affected by these issues, help them work out strategies for coping with the problem, for instance, not responding to the comments directed to them online.
If you discover your child is engaging in bullying behaviours, make an effort to express your disapproval for such behaviour and stress how their negative activities impact the victim.
It is important that parents and carers take care of their own wellbeing and be aware of their own feelings and emotions when helping their child or children in their care. It is recommended that parents and carers get some support by talking to someone they can trust, and seek professional help for yourself and family if you need it.
Relationships Australia NSW offer face to face counselling and online counselling for parents and carers working full time and have the need for out of hours or weekend access to professional help or support. To find out more about online counselling and face-to-face counselling you can call us on 1300 364 277.