The Education Blog

15th November, 2021

Marking Anti-Bullying Week

This week marks Anti-Bullying Week, an annual UK event coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, aimed at raising awareness of bullying of children and young people.

Research suggests that 30% of children have been bullied in the last year alone, with 17% having been bullied online. This equates to approximately one child in every classroom experiencing bullying every single day.

Sadly, bullying can have a significant impact on children’s lives, making this week hugely important to raise awareness of this issue. With this in mind, we wanted to bring you our advice and suggested resources to help you and your family cope with bullying, whether your child has been the victim of bullying, or indeed if they have been bullying another student.

How to spot if your child is being bullied

Some children may be uncomfortable telling their parents or trusted adults in their life if they are being bullied. While each child is different, children being bullied may:

• Seem anxious or depressed
• Seem less confident
• Show signs of upset or distress
• Avoid school or refuse to go
• Complain often about feeling physically unwell
• Have outbursts of unexplained anger at home
• Seem isolated and withdrawn
• Have fewer friendships
• Make changes in their behaviour
• Bully others
• Have unexplained physical injuries
• Perform worse at school
• Eat or sleep more or less than usual
• Use drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult feelings

Read more about how to spot the signs of bullying, and how to support your child here

Advice for parents if your child is being bullied

It’s a horrible feeling as a parent to hear that your child is the victim of bullying. The good news is that once they have told you, they are no longer alone in this – you can work together to create a solution.

If your child talks to you about difficult experiences at school, outside of school, or online, our advice is to validate their feelings and to take what they say seriously. This can help to regulate their emotions, and to help them feel safe. Although as parents your first instinct might be to try and solve the problem, it is better to start by listening and supporting them in the moment, helping them to feel empowered to speak out.

Talking and being listened to can help your child to feel a sense of control and safety. Sadly, when a child is bullied, their whole sense of self is questioned, and normally safe environments such as home, school and online platforms can suddenly feel unsafe, unpredictable and lonely. To help them feel safe, they need to feel heard and seen in what they are feeling, and supported and in control when they speak out.

Consciously create opportunities for your children to talk. A good way to do this is through activities where you are side by side, such as walking, driving, baking or painting. Creating this room to talk during an activity can help both you and your child to feel less daunted while sharing difficult experiences, and can open up an important dialogue between parents, children and if applicable, school or educational establishments.

Advice for children struggling with bullying

You may find the following advice useful to share with your child if they are experiencing bullying:

• You are not alone, you are not to blame, and it is not your fault. Show extra kindness to yourself during this difficult time.

• To help yourself cope, think about doing an activity that helps to calm you down, to feel safe, or even to distract yourself. This might be something creative, like art or music, or a good book, TV series or game. Taking time to exercise can help us to get out of our head when things are going round, and more into our bodies.

• There are people here to help you and support you through these big waves of uncertainty. You only have to be brave for a second to speak out, and this is what will help you. We all need support sometimes – allow yourself to be supported through this moment and your future self will thank you for being brave.

Read more top tips for children struggling with bullying at Kidscape here.

How to handle cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an umbrella term to describe many kinds of online abuse. Victims of cyberbullying don’t always know who are behind the accounts that are abusing them.

You and your family may find these tips from The Child Mind Institute useful to tackle cyberbullying:

• Sign off the computer: Ignore the attacks and walk away from the computer or device.

• Don’t respond or retaliate: Cyberbullies often want to get a reaction from their victims, so don’t let them know their plans have worked if you’re upset or angry.

• Block the bully: Take the person off your friends list, and block them if possible.

• Report cyberbullying: Social media sites such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have support areas to help those who have been targeted by bullies. Parents and children can visit these pages to report cyberbullying and have users blocked or posts taken down. If your child is being bullied over text message, your mobile phone provider may be able to block the number for you.

Especially with cyberbullying, it’s important to empower children to take positive action. Experts suggest that potentially everyone in a bully’s circle of friends – both online and offline – may be involved in their cyberbullying activity, from the cyberbully themselves, to the bystanders who are aware something cruel is going on but who stay on the sidelines.

Bullies thrive on isolating their victims; children who are ‘upstanders’ and stand up for the victim, address the bully directly, or notify the appropriate authorities about what’s going on can break this cycle.

Read more about how to tackle the impact of cyberbullying here.

What to do if your child is bullying others

No parent wants to hear that their child has been bullying others. Remember that children don’t bully because they’re ‘bad kids’, but for a wide variety of reasons, from wanting to fit in with a group of classmates that are bullying someone, to seeking attention from teachers, parents or classmates, or a natural assertiveness and impulsiveness that others around them don’t have.

This does not make them a bad person. As soon as you hear from your child or their school that they may be bullying someone, sit down with them and talk about it. Understand from their point of view what’s going on, and guide them through appropriate friendship behaviours.

The Child Mind Institute recommends the following techniques for parents to support your child to make amends and change their behaviour:

• Communicate: Talk to your child! Discuss the situation, hear it in their own words, and get to the root of why the social aggression is happening.

• Cope Ahead: Tailor your response to the specific challenges your child is facing. Discuss scenarios that might prove difficult for them to handle, and guide them through the appropriate responses. It may be useful to encourage your child to take the perspective of the victim of bullying, helping them to understand the emotional impact of their actions.

• Look Inward: Children who are exposed to aggressive or unkind behaviour outside of school are more likely to repeat these behaviours at school. If members of your family engage in name-calling, putdowns or other negative behaviour, focusing on fostering a positive home environment and demonstrating the values you would like your child to embody at school can make a big difference.

• Provide meaningful consequences: Punishments for bullying can be effective, but they must be meaningful and limited in scope. For example, if your teenager has been cyber bullying another student, they should lose their phone privileges, but should have the opportunity to earn this back over time, depending on how serious the activity was.

• Make it right: Explain to your child how they can rectify a situation, whether that’s an apology to the victim, baking cookies for the whole class, or playing a game with a person they had previously excluded.

Read more on The Child Mind Institute’s website here

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