RANT Counsellor, Dagmara Rowlands, sheds some light on how to recognise bullying and steps to take if your child is being bullied.
The holidays are coming to an end and while back to school may be a sigh of relief for parents, who have been juggling child care and entertainment for weeks, it can be a difficult time for kids. School can be stressful, for any number of reasons, other than the dreaded homework. Back to school could mean starting a new school, making friends and negotiating ever present playground politics.
Bullying is a serious issue in schools, and while many principals and teachers assure a zero tolerance policy, it can sometimes be hard to recognise and manage.
Relationships Australia NT recognises the impact that bullying can have not only on the child themselves but also the parents and family. As the bullying beast takes many forms there is no hard or fast rule for defeat, but it can be helpful for parents to recognise some signs and not underestimate the lasting effects of schoolyard taunting.
While we could endlessly talk about the varied signs and symptoms of bullying, RANT counsellor, Dagmara Rowlands, briefly sheds some light on behaviours to be aware of and some steps to take in the presence of bullying.
“When a child is verbalising a desire to not go to school or has a noticeable decline in school performance, these are obvious warning signals, especially when coupled with lost or destroyed property and unexplained injuries.”
However, signs of difficulties at school are not always so plain.
“Parents should be alert to changes in mood, behaviour and physical appearance of their children.” Whilst some signs may be difficult to register, especially in teenagers whom are known for their unpredictable emotions, “moodiness, irritability and withdrawal, along with difficulties getting out of bed” may be something other than just teen angst. “Being aware of changes in eating habits, frequent stomach or headaches and faking illnesses is important as these may indicate anxiety.”
It is also important to take note of how your child is socialising. While kids are known to chop and change groups as they mature, sudden social withdrawal and loss of friends may indicate more than the natural transience of childhood friendships.
So what is to be done? Firstly, even acknowledging bullying can seem daunting for both children and parents. Naming the issue might make it seem bigger than you want it to be, or a real problem for which you don’t have a tangible solution or parental wisdom.
“Finding out that your child is being bullied can be upsetting. The most important first step for parents is to stay calm and positive and listen to your child. Do not dismiss their concerns or encourage them to sort it out themselves.”
Dagmara’s second piece of advice is to talk to the school.
“You are not alone in this issue; the school doesn’t want your child to feel ostracised or uncomfortable. Find out what supports are in place and how they can assist your child in the school domain.”
Ensuring that the child has a confidant at school and encouraging them to report incidents and understand that it is OK to do so, can also help inspire security.
“Parents must explain to their children that bullying is not their fault.”
According to Dagmara confidence is key, as body language can speak volumes. “Parents can work out strategies with their children, such as appearing confident even if they feel insecure on the inside.” Just practicing saying No firmly can create confidence as well as acting unimpressed or unaffected.
“Don’t let bullying dominate your child’s life, focus on developing new skills and encourage healthy outlets outside of school where they can form meaningful bonds and develop new skills.”
Relationships Australia NT offers individual, couple and family counselling, relationship education and skill-building courses including Parenting courses. For more information please call us on (08) 8923 4999.