This is something all parents worry about and bullying can take so many forms it is so hard to spot and even harder to stop.
Recently my cousin noticed a Facebook page that was bullying her 12 year old son, fortunately she got the page removed but it did make me question, how would I know if my child was being bullied, are there signs to look out for and what do I do if I spot it?
So firstly what are the signs to look out for if my child is being bullied?
Has your child suddenly started becoming worried about going to school? Have they asked to stay at home, have they pretended to be ill? This might be one of the first signs as they are not enjoying school and want to avoid it. Also check on how well your child is doing at school, sometimes bullying can cause a child to start performing badly, especially where previously they had been doing well.
Has your childs behaviour changed? Have they started being grumpier or even aggressive? Children can occasionally copy a bullys behaviour and act out towards younger siblings or even pets.
Has your child become withdrawn? Often, happy children will come home from school and want to talk about their day, especially younger children. If your child is being bullied, they may shy away from you and any conversation about school and friends.
Obviously these behaviours dont necessarily mean your child is being bullied but they are signs that something might not be quite right and you can try and talk to them to see if you can help.
If you find out your child is being bullied it is very easy to be very angry. I know when my own little boy was being called names in the playground I wanted to go right down there and confront the other child and the parents and I was even tempted to call the police I was so upset! Fortunately I calmed myself down and had a quick google about the best thing to do! Where would I be without the internet and the advice from netmums!?!
Listen to your child. Ask them questions about what happened, and listen to their answers without interrupting. You need to be a safe space for your child to be able to vent their feelings. Ask your child what they would like you to do about it. You might not feel that their answer to this is the best way forward but it is important for them to feel that they have a say and they are somewhat in control. After all, bullying is all about taking their control away so you want them to feel empowered.
Reassure the child that this is not their fault. Remind them that bullying happens to lots of children and even adults too and encourage your child to try to appear confident - even if they dont feel it.
Sometimes people say nasty things because they want a certain reaction or to cause upset, so if your child gives them the impression theyre not bothered, the bullies are more likely to stop. Role-play bullying scenarios and practice your childs responses. Talk about how our voices, bodies and faces send messages just the same way our words do.
If you can try and find out what happened before and after the bullying. Sometimes, especially in the case of younger children there is more to the story than first appears. When my little boy came home in tears because another child had called him a poo head, I was ready to do battle but when I gently asked more questions I learnt that my little angel had actually pushed the little boy out of the sand pit and stolen his tractor! Hmm, cue massive parental guilt about having dreadfully behaved child!
After talking and trying to get my son to empathise with the little boy he was able to explain to me why what he did was wrong and how sad the little boy must have felt which is why he called him names. We decided to go together and talk to him and my son said he was sorry and now they seem to be best friends again so alls well.
Obviously this is a happy story and for many children this isnt the case and they really do suffer at the hands of bullies.
If you think the matter needs addressing more seriously dont be afraid to make an appointment to talk to the childs teacher or even the head. All schools have to by law have a bullying policy so ask to see it and approach the school with the aim of working with them to sort it out.
Check out my previous blog about what to do if you think your child might be a bully and remember parenting is hard work so take it easy and be kind to yourself.
Good luck with back to school week!!