Dr Caitlin O’Connor, of Tralee Medical Centre in St Brendan’s Park, on the problem of bullying…
Many children and young people experience the long-standing dilemma of bullying sometime in their lives.
If you are being bullied, you may feel scared, vulnerable and helpless but no one deserves to be bullied and you owe it to yourself to sort out the situation so that the bullying stops.
Coping with bullying can be difficult, but remember, you are NOT the problem, the bully is. Bullying succeeds in secrecy and fear.
Everyone has the right to be safe and secure from bullying and should tell – is not “ratting” or “squealing” when you are protecting yourself.
You may be surprised to know that many well-known celebrities were bullied when they were young, and that in spite of being bullied at school they became very successful adults.
David Beckham, Eminem, Brian McFadden and Miley Cyrus are just a few well-known people who were bullied in school. This is proof that even if you have been bullied, you can still achieve just about anything.
What can parents do?
Fewer than half of children and young people will tell a parent when they are being bullied and, at the very most, a third will tell a teacher.
Parents can play a significant role in helping their child to cope with bullying, and even avoid it. The first step is to be able to recognize the signs of bullying.
If your child is being bullied
• Take the problem seriously. LISTEN carefully and ask them to describe the bullying.
• Empathise with your child. Tell them it is not their fault and that they have been very brave to tell someone.
• Never tell the child to “ignore” the bullying. What the child might hear is that YOU are going to the bullying. Often, trying to ignore the bullying allows it to become more serious.
• Don’t assume that the child did something to provoke the bullying.
• Never encourage physical retaliation. Having the attitude “boys will be boys” can be dangerous and get your child into trouble.
• If you disagree with their handling of the situation, do not criticize.
• Check your own emotion – try not to over react or under react.
•Keep a written record of events.
• Contact the school and teacher(s). The school may have a way of dealing with bullying, such as anti-bullying policies.
• Get professional help in serious cases.
Help your child
You can help your child to respond to verbal bullying without reacting, as by counting to 10 or using humour. If the bully does not get a reaction of anger or fear from the victim, they usually get bored and stop.
Practice assertive skills, standing tall, acting brave, and responses such as: “NO” and “STOP IT”.
Teach your child stay safe strategies, such as where to get help, and help them become more resilient by nurturing their self esteem.
Educate your child about bullying – it’s crucial that they understand that it is not their problem.
Pay attention to personal grooming and social skills.
Encourage your child to get a buddy – arranging to walk to class together, have lunch together and walk home together.
Help your child feel good about themselves.
Encourage your child to join groups – physical activity can help reduce anxiety, increase confidence and help make new friends.
What if your child is the bully?
Finding out that your child is behaving inappropriately can be upsetting, but it is important to address the problem straightaway.
So talk to your child about their behaviour and it’s impact on others. Explain that teasing them may seem like harmless fun, but to realize when it is one sided and making other people upset.
Let them know that bullying in any way is wholly unacceptable and follow through with appropriate consequences for misbehaviour (loss of privileges).
Spend more time with your child and monitor activities closely – for example, is the child in bad company? Focus their talents and build self esteem, while praising and reinforcing positive, caring actions and peaceful problem solving.
Bullying can now happen online, long after the final school bell. For kids being bullied electronically, it can feel like there is no escape.
– Tell your parents if you are receiving messages that upset you.
– Do not give your personal details to strangers.
– Do not reply to messages that make you feel uncomfortable.
– If you get a message from an unknown number, do not reply.
– Contact the mobile/social network, make a complaint and block the bully.
– Ask the bully to stop and keep evidence.
– Limit access to technology and supervise use.
– Know your kids’ online world and become aware of how they spend time online.
– Discuss the importance of keeping personal details secret.
– Contact Gardai if bullying persists.
You can contact the ISPCC on 01 676 7960
Childline number is 1800 666 666 or online at www.childline.ie
or text TaIk’ to 50101