Bullying has always been around but in recent years the term ‘bullying’ has gained considerable attention particularly with increased focus in the media. As a parent, you may feel unsure whether your child is actually being bullied as it may not be clear when every-day interactions between children have crossed that line into bullying.
Unfortunately, some people still consider ‘low-level’ bullying to be a harmless experience. However, due to research we now understand that the effects of being bullied can have both short and long term consequences to a child’s health, education, well-being and self-esteem. A recent study in America, showed that more than 160,000 children miss school every single day because they are worried about being bullied.
Unsure if your child is being bullied
If you are worried about your child being bullied, you may want to look at the below characteristics and descriptions to help you determine if further actions need to be taken.
So, let’s kick off by looking at the term ‘bullying’ which is defined as a form of aggression towards others, usually in the same age group, where the aggressor is repeatedly and consciously using their power over the other person to hurt them, physically or emotionally.
This aggression can take the form of a physical attack but would also include any emotional action that is taken with hostile or vicious intent in both face to face and online situations. Bullying in children can come in many forms but some of the more common types are listed in this quick slideshow.
When people think of the term ‘bully’ they tend to conjure up the classic view of someone who is aggressive, hot-tempered, impulsive, self-confident, often physically strong and with very little empathy for their victims.
But it is important to bear in mind, that anyone can become a bully, even insecure kids with low self-esteem. Unlike aggressive bullies they may not actively seek out a victim, instead they may exhibit violent outbursts towards someone who happens to be in their way. But they do join aggressive bullies in their actions when a bullying incident occurs and are often very loyal to the ringleader. Sometimes people who have been bullied themselves start to take their aggression out on others too. Psychologists call this group the bully-victims.
Aggressive bullies are strongly driven by the feeling of power they derive from putting another person down. That sensation increases when other people are present to observe the bullying. These witnesses serve to increase the victim’s humiliation and the bully achieves an increased feeling of accomplishment.
Worryingly, even though it is highly likely that most of the watching crowd is actually against what is happening, they rarely act on it. This reluctance can stem from the belief that the rest of the group approves the behaviour and therefore no individual is willing to take a stand against the bullies. For this reason, bullying awareness is important in educational settings, the more information children have about how to stop a bully, the better equipped they are to help themselves and others.
How to recognise your child is being bullied
Every person is different and therefore their reactions to being bullied may also differ. Victims, however, tend to have some shared characteristics. If your child shows any of the following signs, particularly repeated over a period of time, it is recommended you take action to determine the extent of the bullying:
These are only some of the symptoms that might indicate whether your child is being bullied. It is important to carefully observe your child over a period of time, remain open minded and initiate non-confrontational conversations to encourage your child to share their worries and experiences.
Why bullying in children should not be ignored
Bullying has many negative effects on a young person, among other things, it may lead to low self-esteem, insecurity, anxiety, depression, self-harming, and substance abuse. There may also be physical outcomes like muscle pains, head or stomach aches, low immunity and trouble sleeping.
The immediate impact of bullying is clear but recently scientists have shown that it has an impact on one’s whole life, even as an adult. If the bullying is long term, the victim can come to see themselves as the bully sees them, and it may result in them assuming the role of victim for the rest of their life – they become easy to manipulate, emotionally blackmail and control. The bullied person is at a higher risk of developing depression and other psychiatric disorders, including being at an increased rate of committing suicide.
As a parent, what you can do if your child is being bullied
Very often, children who are being bullied, are reluctant to let their parents know partly because they may feel ashamed and powerless. It also transpires that many young people are worried their parent will do something to make the situation worse.
First and foremost, focus on providing your child with an environment where they feel loved and supported, also, ensure your child knows that you will only take action with their consent. As a parent, avoid taking out your frustration and worry on your child which might happen when you, yourself, are feeling powerless facing those troubles.
Avoid falling into trap of assuming your child did or said something that provoked teasing and harassment. The best option is to let your child do the talking and just listen in a non-judgemental way, gently drawing out their experiences. It is crucial for your child to feel that their feelings matter and that they are being heard.
Devise a plan of action together, do not storm off to the school and confront the aggressors yourself. Help your child by letting them be part of the plan, and they will tell you what actions they are comfortable with. Your job is to help your child become more confident, and allowing your child to discover how they can regain the control. Guide your child calmly and positively, but most importantly, support your child every step of the way.
Take Action Against Bullying
Both victims and bullies need support and help from their family, friends, and educational settings. In some cases, support from professionals is also needed in order to overcome the vicious circle of bullying. Here at Support 4 Kids, we offer a mixture of solutions, you may want to check out our Boost Young Minds Solution, the Confidence Booster. Don’t suffer in silence, reach out and get the help that is needed. Feel free to browse our website for various online solutions, or get in touch to hear more about upcoming projects.
By Tina Elven