It’s terrifying to think that your child is a victim of bullying, yet, given the statistics, it is a common occurrence in schools and over the internet. Striking a good balance between letting children develop independence while also keeping them safe and protected seems a delicate balancing act. Considering it is almost impossible to supervise your child at all times and know every little detail about their school life or other activities, how do we protect our children and ensure they grow up safe in an environment where they can thrive. As much as teachers and other caretakers strive hard to keep children safe, your child can be in the midst of challenging environments without your knowledge. Schools, playgrounds should be safe spaces for our children so if our children experience bullying in these environments, it is a violation of their safe space and dignity.
Bullying is unfortunately a common experience. Most children will experience some sort of bullying in their schooling or college years. We must understand that bullying can range in intensity but is challenging, in any form. Bullying can be defined as the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate (Wikipedia). It can occur repeatedly and take various forms such as verbal bullying that can include name-calling, teasing, physical bullying like hitting, punching, emotional bullying such as exclusion and isolation from a group or sexual bullying that include forced touch, vulgar gestures. In today’s world, children also have exposure to the internet and virtual world much earlier than the previous generation. Cyberbullying is also very prevalent in India, and it can be just as isolating and defeating as other forms of bullying. On the whole, the numbers have only escalated in India over the past few years. Any form of bullying can have a negative effect on our children and can impact them far beyond their growing up years, making it important to stop bullying at the earliest.
It is important to have open lines of communication with your child at all times. Having a strong bond with your child, built on trust, respect and love can make your child feel safe to confide in you. However, sometimes, even with all the care we put in, you may be unaware that your child is being bullied. Here are some tell-tale signs that your child might be a victim of bullying.
Is your child avoiding school or missing school often? Your child could be making up excuses to miss school, avoid a certain class or an after school activity. Maybe they insist on being dropped to school instead of taking the school bus. They might seem increasingly anxious about attending school or participating in activities they generally enjoy It is worth finding out more about these behaviours when they occur.
Very often children who are being bullied become withdrawn or anxious with these behavioural changes becoming quite evident and obvious. They might ask for more pocket money or frequently complain about stomach aches or headaches. If your child is being physically bullied, you might notice torn school or play clothes and bruises on their body.
Bullying can negatively impact your child’s academic performance. If you notice your child dropping grades unexpectedly, or that they have lost interest in school work, find out more about what is going on in their school.
Does your child have friends at school or are they often complaining of experiencing loneliness at school, with few or no friends at school? Your child might appear anxious, sad or moody, without any explanation. They might have trouble sleeping or experience a loss of appetite. Keep atab of your child’s general mood and demeanour when they return home from school or play.
With a lack of awareness of its impact, many schools or relevant authorities may not take bullying seriously or take necessary action to put an end to it. It might take a bit of advocating for your child but it is imperative you support your child through this without letting them feel like there is nothing that can be done about it.
Your child needs your empathy and love more than anything else. Always believe your child when they tell you they are being bullied or harassed, so that your child knows they can come to you when they feel unsafe or intimidated. At no point should your child feel responsible for what is happening to them, instead empower them with your support and unconditional acceptance.
Always keep the lines of communication open with your child and this means you avoid criticising and heavily reprimanding them when they make a mistake. This will make them hesitate to come to you with their problems. Instead, make time to connect with your child on an everyday basis, let them know that you love them, no matter what and that you are always there for them.
This again revolves around being a part of your child’s world. It helps to know what happens in their school, know their friends and their usual schedule. Children who are perceived as different from their peers are at a higher risk of being bullied, such as those who have a disability, are obese, considered slow, new in the school or physically appear different, so parents must be vigilant.
If you notice signs that your child is being bullied, involve the concerned authorities. Advocate for your child’s safety, which means you ensure the school authorities take this offence seriously. It is also important that the bullies should also receive help, through appropriate counselling. Very often bullies have experienced some form of bullying themselves.
Bullying can draw children into a vicious cycle therefore it is important that parents and school authorities work together to prevent bullying and take appropriate action in the unfortunate event that it occurs. As a community, it is important we raise more awareness on the impact of bullying and how to tackle it.
If your child has been a victim of bullying and you need support, please reach out to our counsellors at Tactopus.