A NOTE FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN BEING BULLIED. (this will be a long one, but hopefully worth the read)
*** Being a High School teacher, not a single day goes by without me hearing about or witnessing the heartbreaking effects of bullying. Then I come home and find out my then 6 year old daughter had sat by herself crying at lunch time because she had the wrong colour hula hoop and wasn’t allowed to play with her so called ‘friends’. Sigh. 6 years old. This is too young.
So, let me be real.
1. Parents, you are not alone. There are more of you, sitting at home, waiting until your baby goes to sleep, so they don’t see you crying the tears of helplessness. We are in this together.
2.Be the voice for your baby. They will be stuck in a bubble of ‘I can’t dob, the bully will know and then it will get worse’. My pet hate as a teacher is the word ‘snitch’. It’s teaching your child from a young age that it is wrong to ask for help when you have a problem. This is the basis of most mental health issues. We need to lose the stigma of ‘speaking up’. Yes, my darling child, the bully probably will find out. But you will have a support network of people around you, because it is now known to be a problem.
3.Involve the school. I hear it all the time ‘my kid is being bullied and the school is doing nothing.’ As someone on the inside, 99.9% of the time, this is not the case. You may not always see the contacts sent out to all your child’s teachers to be aware of the situation. The counselling of the bully, because they have some severe trauma causing them to do it.
4.But if you truly believe nothing is happening, put your Mama Bear hat on. Don’t get angry, because that pushes people away, but be assertive. Think of schools like hospitals, having their very own type of ‘triage’. Push your baby’s case up the ‘triage’ line. The best way to do it is through evidence. Evidence of what is being said and done. But also evidence of what it is doing to your child; doctors, counsellor reports and such. Show your little one that no matter what, you are their number 1 supporter.
5.In a course I did once, I learnt that all children need 4 ‘safe adults’ in their life. Make sure you know who your child thinks these people are. And try to make one of them a teacher at school. Imagine the damage to their little mind and bodies if they feel attacked first thing in the morning and have to let it all build up before the can debrief with you at home. My classroom is well known for being a place of acceptance, safety and Mindfulness. They can come and debrief with me and I can refer them on to where/what to do next. Or they can sit on the pillows and colour in during lunch, to clear their minds in a quiet space. Where is your child’s ‘home away from home?’ Talk to them about this. My daughter’s is the library.
6.Be proactive with your child. Don’t just wait for other people to help, teach your baby to help themselves. And no, I’m not talking violence. That won’t solve anything, because violence just causes more violence. Take up a martial arts. My daughter did Karate. It gave her confidence and taught her how to remain calm. If your child is not physical, try Mindfulness. And no, it’s not just garbage ‘meditation’. I hate it when people say that. It can be the simple act of counting your chews whole you are eating. Anything to snap you out of a moment of panic, before you completely spiral into your own thoughts. If I can recommend any, use smilingminds.com.au. I use Smiling Minds for myself, my daughter and in my classes every day. They have programs for little kids, all the way up to adults. And apps your child can put on their own phones. The most important thing I push, all day is that ‘you need to take control of yourself’. It is very hard for a little mind to grasp, so they need to practice it. I tell them ‘you cannot control someone else. You can only control yourself and how much you let someone hurt you’. The fight or flight instinct in our brains kicks in when we are emotional, making us act and think irrationally. The best weapon your child can have against a bully is training on how to ‘calm themselves’ in a highly emotive system. Can I be honest here? How many times have you told your child to ‘calm down’, but not actually taught them how to actually do it? Do YOU even know how to do it? I’m not trying to attack you, I just want you to be aware, that most adults don’t even know how to calm themselves in a high pressure situation. Smilingminds.com.au – just saying (and no, I am not linked to them in any way, shape or form).
Please remember there is no simple answer to bullying. It is complex and it takes time. As a mother, my whole being hurts when my little girl does. As a teacher, I try to treat my students the way I would want someone to treat my daughter. It is a painful topic, but if you work at it, you and your child can get through this. And most likely be better people because of it.
Stay safe and look after yourselves.