This week, from the 11th to the 15th November, Anti-Bullying Week takes place across the UK, an event intended to raise awareness of the issues surrounding bullying among children, particularly those in school. Bullying is a fundamental issue throughout children of school age and is particularly prevalent in children attending both primary and secondary school, making this already-difficult-to-navigate time in children’s lives even more testing.
Bullying is identified as an aggressive, repetitive behaviour, in which the bully looks to seek harm, either mental or physical, intimidate or coerce a victim. Bullying can affect absolutely everyone, from those that are being bullied, those who bully and the parents and families of those on both side of the spectrum. With recent research by the YMCA suggesting that over half (55%) of all children throughout England and Wales admitting to experiencing bullying at some point, it’s clear that this issue is still very much a huge part of everyday society. Within the North West itself government research outlines upwards of 16% of all current students have experienced bullying within the last year, with 60% of those who had been bullied saying they had experienced some kind of physical bullying, whilst a huge 89% of those bullied had experienced verbal bullying.
The implications of bullying can be not only extremely difficult to deal with but also could have more long-lasting effects, with absence in school, problems building future relationships, low self-esteem and negative opinions of the self all possible outcomes. Not only this, people who are bullied are also at a greater risk of developing health problems in adulthood, with research suggesting that those who were bullied throughout childhood are upwards of six times more likely to be exposed to a serious illness, smoke regularly or develop a mental illness.
Leading UK Psychotherapist & Hypnotherapist Nick Davies explains “Bullying can shape a child’s future massively, I’ve lost count of how many adults I’ve treated that have been severely influenced and affected by their school days; from a fear of public speaking from being embarrassed in class whilst reading out loud, to an avoidance of noisy large groups from being taunted in the playground.”
Whilst it’s clear to see that the effect of bullying on children is huge, there are also palpable consequences placed on the parents. Naturally, many parents find themselves worrying endlessly about their children and as a parent, when your child hurts so do you. When bullying occurs, feelings of powerlessness, agitation and anxiety can often be present within the associating parent. It’s also not uncommon to experience physical symptoms, brought on by the stress and agitation of the experience.
Because of this, it’s extremely important to be as well equipped as possible to help your child deal with the situation and the circumstances surrounding it and whilst there is no miracle fix, there are certain things that you can do to support them.
Listen without judgement
Whilst it can be difficult to avoid getting angry or upset whilst your child is outlining the behaviour they have been subjected to, it’s important to listen without judgement. By putting your feelings aside, you’re able to gain a better understanding of the situation from your child’s perspective and build a safe environment in which your child will feel comfortable speaking to you. This is important as your child is much more likely to open up, therefore revealing more key information which can be used to support them.
Reassure your child
There is very much still a stigma surrounding bullying that needs to be quashed. Many children can feel like they have brought on the bullying themselves, either by the way they look, the way they act or simply by being present in a situation. By reassuring your child that this isn’t their fault, you’re able to encourage them to be more confident in themselves and not allow this to alter their behaviour and sense of self.
Agree next steps
It’s important to choose next steps that your child is happy with. Chances are it’s taken your child some real courage to get to the point of being able to tell you, so the last thing you want to do is break their trust by doing something they aren’t comfortable with. Take the time to ask your child what next steps they would like to take and talk through possible scenarios and situations that could occur depending on the choice made.
Seek support from school
Before approaching the school for support, list all of the information you have available to you that can support your cause. When you are ready to involve the school, make a scheduled appointment and choose the appropriate member of staff to approach. Whilst it can be easy to want to take matters into your own hands, give the school the opportunity to help find a solution to the situation, working collaboratively is much more likely to be effective than wading in alone.
Make home a safe place
Ensuring that your child has a safe place to go and a place where they feel comfortable and content is extremely important. Many children who experience bullying have a tendency to isolate and exclude themselves, retreating to their bedrooms at any given opportunity. Make sure their bedrooms are well equipped to feel comfortable and cosy; big pillows that your child can hug at night and soft blankets both go a long way in adding comfort to a space. Unique furniture such as the Stompa Beds from Room to Grow offer nooks and crannies that make excellent hiding places for your child to cosy into to read a book, play or take a nap.
Whilst it can be really difficult to not let this consume your every thought and feeling, it’s important to stay as positive as possible. Your child needs you to support them through this time, so it’s key to stay present and optimistic. If you find yourself struggling with your own feelings surrounding this, talk to others about your experience to lighten the load.