25% of public schools report that bullying among children happen on a weekly or daily basis. Yes. That is a fact.
Every day we see heart breaking stories about how bullying has affected children. Bullying is not just about physical violence anymore; there are numerous ways in which a child can feel like they are being bullied. It could start off as friends refusing to include them in activities and can even escalate to peers spreading vicious or untrue rumors about them being spread in the cyberspace, that makes them the subject of unwarranted gossip among fellow students.
How can you tell if your child being bullied at school? If there is physical violence, there will be tell-take signs of clothes that are torn or bruises that are obvious or even missing personal belongings. More often than not, bullying is difficult to spot, but there are some signs that you can watch out for though:
- Refusing to go to school or being afraid to ride the school bus
- Frequent head aches, stomach aches or other physical complaints
- Moodiness and distress
- Change in sleep patterns like having constant nightmares or trouble falling asleep
- Appearing sad, lonely or anxious with no known cause
- A dip in self-worth and constantly avoiding peer interactions after school or on weekends
- Talk of how “no one would care if wasn’t alive anymore”
- Sudden dip in academic performance
Most kids don’t immediately open up and talk about it if they are being bullied, for fear of being judged or blamed as they have been led to believe by the bullies. So how can you bully-proof your child?
- Listen & Avoid Assumptions
The most important thing you can do when you suspect that your child is being bullied at school would be to listen to them without forming any assumptions or judgments of your own. The best thing you can do for them would be to avoid asking questions like, “Did you do something to upset these kids?” as that would make them clam up even more and make the situation worse. Your child is already blaming himself/herself enough so you can make things easier by listening to what they have to say with an open mind and reassure your child that you are there for them no matter what.
- Problem Solve as Partners
Brainstorm solutions with your child and make them feel empowered to take control of the situation instead of feeling like a victim. Some kids are great with having a funny comeback when someone tries to put them down verbally, others may need to walk away or use the “buddy” system where they don’t face their bullies alone. Teach them that they are stronger and braver than they think they are and that every situation has a solution.
- Ask the Teacher/School for Help
A lot of the bullying usually happens away from the teacher’s eyes so there are chances that the school or the teacher unaware of what is happening to your child. Teachers want their students to feel safe and happy at school so never worry that you might be “bothering” them if you speak up about how your child is being bullied at school. Ask for help as soon as you notice or suspect that there is a problem. More importantly remember to make an appointment rather than accusing them, because usually with bullying teachers might be the last to find out about it. It’s usually, “friends first, then parents, lastly schools!”
- Escalate If You Don’t Receive Help
Start writing down each instance of bullying with the date, who did it, who saw it and the effect that it had on your child. Take it up with the school again and if you feel that you are not satisfied with the school’s response, don’t give up. There are several help lines and websites that offer step-by-step guidance on how to deal with the school or how to contact the Education Welfare Officer/social worker and ask them to intervene with the school.
More importantly, don’t let the bullies or the bullying take control of your lives. Bullies are cowards by nature and they hide behind crowds and computer screens in order to feel powerful by taking control of someone else’s life, even for a short while. Let your child know that help is always at hand should they need it and that they are in a safe space where they will be heard.
Written By: Arathi Aravind