What are 3 tell-tale signs that my child is being bullied?
- You should monitor your child for changes in behaviour and demeanour. This might be becoming quieter and more withdrawn, or could manifest as becoming more emotional, angrier or more aggressive.
- Children might begin to exhibit school avoidance tactics. They might develop stomach aches or headaches in the morning before school so that they can stay home.
- Changes in appetite – loss of interest in food or comfort eating – and changes to sleeping habits – not being able to sleep or not wanting to get out of bed – could also be a sign that something is wrong.
How SMMIS tackles bullying?
Our school takes a preventative and restorative approach to bullying. We cultivate a strong sense of community in which love, kindness and tolerance are core values. With a consistent focus on these values, we explicitly teach our children how to treat one another, and how to call it out when they see incidents of unkindness. This is an integral part of our pastoral programme, which looks at all forms of bullying, including verbal, physical and emotional, both face-to-face and online. When instances of bullying do occur, we are proactive in dealing with it early, using restorative practices to repair the relationship so that those who have been harmed can feel better and move on, and those who have done harm can come to an understanding of the hurt they’ve caused and have an opportunity to make good on it. We will then actively follow-up on these cases to ensure that there are not repeat occurrences. We place a key emphasis on open communication with parents in these instances, for all involved parties, to make our processes clear, so that parents know that we are working in the best interests of their children.
How can I help my child if I suspect they are being bullied?
We would strongly encourage parents to contact the school as soon as possible if they suspect that their child is being bullied. Bullying (hurt that is continuous and intentional over a period of time) is never acceptable and should not be seen as just a part of growing up. Bullying can often be invisible, especially if it is taking place online, through social media. Once the school has been informed, we can start putting processes in place to put a stop to the bullying.
Make home a safe space, where your child can take shelter from their problems. If you suspect that the bullying is taking place online, we would strongly encourage parents to monitor their child’s social media accounts and screen time. Although this may feel intrusive to you, children need boundaries and restrictions, and in the long run, they will understand that this is for their own safety. If the bullying is taking place online and there are no restrictions on device usage within the home, then there is no respite for a child who is suffering from online forms of bullying. Google has excellent resources and advice on safe device usage for families.
What is the best way to talk to my child about bullying without it being awkward?
It might be a difficult thing for children to communicate with their parents about, especially if it is affecting their self-esteem or they are experiencing feelings of shame. Try to choose a time when your child is feeling relaxed and at ease, they are more likely to talk openly. Approach the subject in a casual, non-confrontational manner with an open question, for example, ‘How are things at school?’, rather than a direct question ‘Are you being bullied?’ – which may cause them to become closed off and defensive. If you and your child have an activity that you enjoy doing together – cycling, baking, drawing – they may also feel more comfortable to talk about their worries during this. Try not to overreact or become overly emotional in response to what they tell you, it is important that you’re a stable and reliable figure in their life at this time. Do listen attentively and empathetically, and let them do the talking. Give your child affirmative statements; they need to know that they have done a positive thing in opening up to an adult, that they are loved and valued by you, and that they do not have to put up with bullying.