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Children – Bullying; The impact on your child and how you can support them through it

Bullying is recognised as a serious problem and it is a problem that is increasing in severity and frequency. Bully is, plainly put, an aggressive act from one child to another that results in the child feeling hurt, angry, afraid, helpless and hopeless. Bullied children are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and to miss school due to physical complaints, which results in poor self esteem and poor school performance. As such, bullying has serious consequences and it is important for you, as parent, to be able to recognise bullying and to help your child through it.

There are many different forms of bullying. While the most common form has always been physical aggression and teasing, nowadays there has been an increase in other forms as well. Physical bullying involved physical harm to the recipient, while verbal bullying includes teasing and verbal abuse.

Psychological and social bullying is a little harder to recognise but is just as detrimental, if not more.

This form of bullying involves spreading rumours about the victim, embarrassing him or her in public and excluding him or her from the social group. Feeling ostracised and belittled or humiliated is detrimental to the child’s self-esteem and confidence. All children long to be accepted and being socially isolated can result in serious depression and anxiety related problems. Lastly, there is a form of bullying known as ‘cyber’ bullying, or electronic bullying. This incorporates social media such as twitter and facebook, as well as emails and cell phones messages to spread rumours, post pictures of the victims and to deliver threats to the victim. With advancements in technology and children having access to these mediums, this form of bullying is on the rise.

As a parent, it is essential that you are aware of the different ways in which your child could be bullied and to offer a supportive space in which your child can deal with what is happening. If you suspect that your child is being bullied then you can support them in the following ways:

  1. Encourage your child to talk about what is happening. Being bullied is an embarrassing and, often, shameful experience. As a result, most children are ashamed that it is happening to them and are unlikely to talk about it. Remain calm and listen in a supportive manner, always reminding your child that they are not to blame for being bullied
  2. Offer praise and reinforcement for coming to talk to you. It is not easy to discuss these things and it is necessary that you praise your child for doing so.
  3. Make sure that you understand the situation properly. Find out more about what is happening and don’t brush the “little” things off. All instances of bullying are hurtful and do damage.
  4. Talk to your child about the best ways to respond to the bully. Don’t advocate retaliation as this is likely to escalate the situation. Rather encourage your child to walk away, ignore the bully or to talk to a teacher or counsellor at school.
  5. If the situation does not improve, contact a teacher or counsellor at school and discuss the problem with them. It is necessary that the relevant teachers and authorities get involved if your child is unable to manage the problem on his or her own
  6. Finally, you may consider calmly approaching the parents of the bully. No one likes to admit that their child may be the bully, so try to deal with the situation as calmly and sensitively as possible. Avoid blame and accusations and simply try to find a way in which you can work together to alleviate the problem.

Make serious attempts at restoring your child’s confidence and self-esteem. If you feel that your child has suffered emotionally and psychologically from the bullying, then do not hesitate to find bullying counselling and professional support for them. Bullying is a serious problem that needs early intervention. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you are unsure of how to deal with the problem.

Lisa Kunde | CFHP
Lisa Kunde

Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).

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