This week is Anti-Bullying Week and we’re spending all week focusing on the extremely harmful and often devastating issue of bullying.
We’ll be exploring why individuals bully others and who gets bullied.
Over the course of the week, Alicia will be looking at bullying from all angles and giving you the strategies to help if your child is being bullied or doing the bullying.
Read our blog post below and keep checking back as we add more information and advice throughout the week.
Over the years I have worked with many young people who have been the victim of bullying and I have often wished that bullies could see how devastating the impact of their actions can be. For every 10 people who are bullied, three of them will self-harm, one will go on to have a failed suicide attempt and one will develop an eating disorder (DitchtheLabel.org).
Anti-Bullying Week, Day 1: Why do people bully?
It is easy to be angry with bullies, especially when we see the damage they cause, but research tells us that the majority of people who bully do so because they don’t feel ok themselves. Some have experienced trauma, others have been victims of bullying themselves. Having low self-esteem can lead people to bully as a way of feeling more powerful or perhaps they have poor social skills and use bullying as a way of controlling relationships. If children don’t feel ok at home they might bully at school as a way of coping with the difficult feelings they are experiencing. Whatever the reason, more often than not bullies deserve our empathy too.
Often those who experience bullying are targeted because they are perceived as being different in some way. Being different is not the problem. The problem is the attitude of the bully. Whilst we might think we live in more tolerant times many people still struggle to accept difference. Most people have learnt to keep their personal biases to themselves but bullies haven’t. Bullying someone because of their appearance, gender identity, sexuality, race, religion and disabilities are all examples of this. However, being different is only part of the picture because not all people who are different from the crowd are bullied, indeed, many are celebrated so why are some people bullied and others aren’t?
This is complex but having low self-esteem and poor social skills definitely contribute to the problem. If we don’t believe we have worth why would we expect others to treat us with respect? If we can’t be assertive we are less likely to be able to stop the bullying at the outset.
Day 2: How to help your child if they’re being bullied
If you discover that your child is being bullied the chances are you will feel angry and upset which is not surprising. Some children will avoid telling us they have a problem if they think we will become reactive and charge in to fixing mode. Somehow we need to appear calm. If this is impossible you can say something like, “I am so sorry you have been having such a horrid time and it is not ok that you have been bullied. It is absolutely not your fault and we need to find a way to stop it. Right now I feel really upset about this so it is probably better if I calm myself down before we make a plan. What do you need right now?”
Day 3: Continuing how to help your child if they’re being bullied
When you are both calm try to establish where, when, how and by whom they are being bullied.
If the bullying is happening online it is helpful to gather evidence but then work to get the offensive content removed from their phone/screen. Take screen shots of the bullying and keep a record of dates. All of the large social media sites and gaming sites (lots of bullying happens via gaming) have reporting systems and blocking mechanisms to help you get offensive comments removed and stop the bully being in contact. They are all slightly different but a quick internet search will give you all the information you need.
If they are being bullied in person the most important thing is to find a way to keep them safe. Is there a trusted adult they could approach if they need support? Is there a certain time and place that the bullying happens? Could they take a different route to school or join a different activity at break time? Encourage them to come up with ideas rather than just telling them what to do. This is important because when children are bullied they lose their sense of power and control and we don’t want to compound this feeling by rushing in over their heads to fix the problem.
Check back in tomorrow and follow us on social media (above), as we explore what you can do to help your child if they are being bullied.
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