It’s almost time to send your child back to school. As you search for that missing lunch box and stock them up with stationery supplies, we’re also encouraging parents to think about their child’s safety.
In preparation for going back to school, it’s easy to forget that bullying is a real issue that your child could potentially encounter. Did you know that 27 per cent of young people report they are bullied every two weeks or more often? And one in five Australian children aged eight to 17 has been the target of cyberbullying in the past year.
All children have the right to feel safe. But unfortunately, bullying is a significant problem in Australia, both online and in the real world. So what is bullying? How you can you tell if your child is being bullied? And what can you do to help?
What is bullying?
Bullying is repeated behaviour that is harmful, is aimed at a certain person or group of people and embarrasses, dominates or intimidates somebody or a group of people.
So, bullying can include behaviour like teasing and name-calling, kicking and pushing, gossiping and spreading rumours, and cyberbullying, such as offensive text messages, emails and social media posts.
Signs your child might be experiencing bullying
- have unexplained bruises and injuries
- are scared or having nightmares
- keep ‘losing’ or ‘damaging’ their possessions
- put themselves down
- don’t want to go to school
- often feel sick
- act aggressively
Five tips to help your child with bullying
Take it seriously
Finding the courage to tell someone you are being bullied can be hard. So it’s really important that your child knows you take bullying seriously and that you will help them find a way to do something about it. Remind your child that they have a right to feel safe and make sure they know they have done the right thing by confiding in you.
Talk with your child
It’s important your child knows they don’t have to deal with the problem alone. Try to get a solid understanding of the situation and the behaviours your child is experiencing. Then, discuss strategies. You might decide to set a short period of time for your child to try to resolve the situation by walking away, saying “No” firmly, talking to a teacher or guidance counsellor, or trying other strategies to diffuse the situation.
Stay calm and positive
There is a difference between standing up for yourself, and fighting. You can encourage your child to stand up for themselves, for example by standing strong, making eye contact and saying ‘No’ or ‘stop bullying me’. But you should not encourage fighting. Fighting can make the situation worse and your child might face disciplinary action for taking part in the fight. It is also important to teach your children not to laugh at anyone being bullied, not to join in bullying and not to give bullies a lot of attention.
Report the bullying
If your child is being bullied, report it to your school, so you can work together to achieve the best outcome. It is unlikely that your child is alone in experiencing this behaviour, so it is important to work with others to stop bullying so your whole school and community can benefit. Ask the school for any relevant policies or information they can provide you, or check their website for this information.
If your child is the target of cyberbullying, you can also report the incident to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
Help your child build their confidence and social skills
If your child has been bullied, there’s a high risk that they will be bullied again. It is important to support your child to build their confidence and self-esteem so they can develop life skills for dealing with difficult people and situations, now and into their adult lives. In the short-term, this might include practising confident body language and even having some pre-prepared, non-aggressive comeback lines up their sleeve. You can continually help your child build their self-esteem by providing regular encouragement and letting them know, through your words and your action, that they are valuable and have the strength to work through challenging times.
These tips were sourced from Wesley Mission’s mental health professionals, the Australian Psychological Society and Bullying No Way, an Australian Government initiative to help make Australian schools safe.