Five ways to help your child deal with bullying at school
When your little ones head off to school each day, parents often worry about bullying. If you’re concerned, there are many things you can do to help your child.
Nobody knows exactly how many primary school children are bullied on a regular basis.
But some studies suggest one in four grade 4 kids are affected, and that figure rises to around one in three in the final years of primary school.
Ken Rigby is a psychologist, parent and former South Australian schoolteacher. He is also one of the world’s leading experts on bullying and its impacts.
“The most common forms of bullying include being teased in a mean way, deliberate exclusion and having unpleasant rumours spread about one,” Professor Rigby says.
“Less common is being physically hurt and least common is being cyber bullied.”
Kids Helpline says there are a range of signs parents can look out for that may indicate a child is being bullied.
These include unexplained cuts, bruises or pencil marks on the skin, becoming quiet or withdrawn, a child reporting vague headaches or stomach aches, “losing” lunch money or possessions, not wanting to go to school and difficulty sleeping at night.
“Being bullied can sometimes result in persistent anxiety, depression, absenteeism and difficulty in concentrating on school work,” Professor Rigby says.
Long-term, persistent and unresolved bullying can sometimes lead to mental health issues and relationship problems.
Five ways to help if your child is being bullied
- Stay calm
Easier said than done, but getting upset won’t help your child. Speak calmly about what has happened.
- Reassure your child
Let them know that you’ve heard their worries and will support them. “Don’t ignore it, or criticise your child for being weak or for complaining,” Professor Ken Rigby says.
- Talk to the school
Contact your child’s school to ensure they know about the bullying and discuss how to tackle it. “Don’t abuse the school,” Professor Rigby says. “Give the school time to investigate – and see that they get back to you.” If the bullying continues, contact the local education department.
- Share with your child
If you were bullied, share your experiences with your child. Tell them how you felt and what you did to try and stop it.
- Make a plan
Suggest strategies such as walking away from the bully and avoiding situations where they could be bullied. Or try “fogging” – when a bully makes mean comments agree with what they are saying and don’t get upset. Without a reaction, the bully will get bored.
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Written by Sarah Marinos