BULLIES picking on the weak and vulnerable is an age-old problem. But now, as the world unites against an invisible virus, anti-bullying charities are hoping we can all unite against bullying and really make a difference.
As Anti-Bullying Week takes place this week, Martha Evans, director of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk), points out that if everyone, including parents, children, teachers and politicians, pulls together to tackle bullying and the misery it causes, change will happen.
“This year, more than ever, we’ve witnessed the positive power that society can have when we come together to tackle a common challenge,” says Evans.
“Anti-Bullying Week is no different. Bullying has a long-lasting effect on those who experience and witness it. But by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together. As a parent, you’re a vital piece of the puzzle in tackling bullying.”
Evans says it’s natural for parents to worry about bullying, particularly if they’ve experienced it themselves, or think their child may be vulnerable. The good news, she says, is there’s a lot parents can do about it, and here she outlines how they can help beat bullying...
1. Know the signs
You know your child best. Look out for any changes in their behaviour — for example becoming quieter or withdrawn or acting up and getting in trouble.
You may notice they’re reluctant to go to school or take part in their usual activities, or they may become upset after using their phones or devices, or complain of frequent unexplained illnesses like tummy upsets or headaches. You may find they aren’t sleeping properly, or show signs of sadness or anxiety. If these tell-tale signs become apparent, its time to talk and find out what’s troubling them.
2. Know when to step in
Your child will not get on with everyone. They may be on the receiving end of name calling or negative comments, occasionally they could feel left out or alone. They’ll make friends and lose friends. They’re likely to have arguments and disputes. All of these experiences are normal and an important part of childhood development, but when these upsets are repeated and intentional, and your child is being picked on by an individual or group in a position of power, it’s bullying and it needs to stop.
If your child has been seriously harmed or is at risk of serious harm, then this is an urgent safeguarding issue and you should seek immediate help and call 999 or your local children’s services team.
If your child has been on the receiving end of prejudicial behaviour because of their race or faith, disability, gender, sex or sexuality, even if this was a one-off incident and you don’t consider it to be bullying, it’s important to alert your school as it may point to a wider issue in the culture of the school that needs to be addressed.
3. Work with your child’s school
If your child is being bullied, it’s important you speak to the school about it as soon as you can. Schools have a legal duty to prevent bullying and harassment. Most schools will have an anti-bullying policy, or their approach to preventing and responding to bullying will be included in their behaviour policy. This is often available on the school website and if not, your child’s school must provide you with a copy by law.
When speaking to the school, you may be upset and angry but it’s important you approach the situation calmly and focus on what you can do together to resolve the bullying. You may find it helpful to write down what’s happened, the impact it’s had on your child, and to keep a note of any contact you’ve had with the school.
Your child needs to feel included in these discussions - they may not be part of every meeting or phone call, but it’s important you’ve listened to what they want to happen.
4. Talk about bullying
Anti-Bullying Week is a great opportunity to start a conversation in your household on bullying and consider the steps you can take together if it happens.
So mark the date in the family calendar and chat with your children about what their school’s done to celebrate Anti-Bullying Week and what it means to them. There’s a pack for parents on the Anti-Bullying Alliance website.