For a long time people thought that bullying in children, although unpleasant, was just part and parcel of growing up.
However, bullying is not okay – and bullying amongst children at school can be a traumatic experience, even leading to significant mental health issues.
Over the last decade, parents, teachers and children have generally become more aware of the various issues surrounding bullying, such as aggression/physical harm; distress and fear; and feelings of inferiority.
Australian research suggests that at least 1 in 4 children during primary school will experience a form of bullying, with the transition between primary and high school having the highest incidences of bullying.
Recent research also suggests that aggressive behaviours and dominant behaviours in the early childhood years can lead to persistent bullying and anti-social behaviour later on, during the high school years.
What is Bullying Behaviour?
Bullying behaviour may be physical; that is, a child may be bullied by peers at school by continually being pushed or struck by another person/s, and there may be repeated threats of future harassment.
Other types of bullying include having an object or possession taken away or damaged; verbal bullying, constant ridicule and name-calling; or it may be more covert such as the child being socially excluded, or having negative rumours spread about them.
Is My Child Being Bullied?
Although your child may not confide in you, there will likely be signs that may indicate your child is being bullied:
- They may become withdrawn, quieter than usual, and prefer isolation all of a sudden.
- You may notice your child becoming more irritable, angry and aggressive at times.
- Your child may become more emotionally sensitive and teary, compared to usual.
- They may appear less tolerant to things they easily tolerated previously.
- Your child may lose interest in things they previously enjoyed.
- They may also present with avoidant behaviours, such as physical complaints before going to school.
- You may notice a change in your child’s sleep patterns and appetite.
- Your child may begin having nightmares or bed-wetting.
Tips to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying
Helping your child to overcome bullying should start long before it actually becomes an issue.
- For example, help educate your child about what bullying means – and what it looks like.
- Communication, communication, communication! Encourage your child to talk to you every day, not just about the positive things that happen in their lives, but also about the negatives and things that are hurting them.
- Help your child overcome any shame about feeling bullied, and teach them that there is no shame in being bullied, or accessing support for it.
- Help your child understand that bullying usually doesn’t just go away, and may get worse with time, making early intervention critical.
- Teach your child assertiveness skills, maybe through the use of role playing to help them stand up to their bullies.
- Establish support people your child can depend on in different settings.
- Supervise your child as much as possible when they are on the computer or when they are using any type of social media. Try to keep a computer in a public space in the home and do not allow young children or younger adolescents to have mobiles overnight in their rooms.
- Parents and other adults in the home need to be good role models when discussing an issue in the home. Role modelling respectful, assertive and clear communication is a great way to help your child learn appropriate communication when problem-solving.
Bullying is Not Okay – How to Get Help
Some children need more individual support to help them overcome bullying. A psychologist can help your child through techniques such as play therapy, to build positive coping strategies, and manage difficult peer relationships.
Children who bully, and children who become victims to bullying, each present with different individual characteristics, and a psychologist can support them with appropriate developmental and social skills. Other skills such as building effective peer relationships, empathy building and conflict resolutions will also be key elements in therapy.
Author: Shokria Siddiqui, BSc.Psych, PGDipPsych, PGDipMH, MPsych, MAPS.
Shokria Siddiqui is a Brisbane Psychologist working with all ages, however she has a particular interest in children and adolescents. By implementing evidence-based therapies that have been scientifically tested, building rapport with her clients, and creating a safe therapeutic space, Shokria helps her clients and their families to better meet life’s challenges.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology on (07) 3088 5422.
- Bradshaw C. P., Koth C. W., Thornton L. A., and Leaf P. J. (2009) ‘Altering school climate through school-wide positive behavioural interventions and supports: Findings from a group randomized effectiveness trial’. Prevention Science, Vol.10, No.2, pp.100-115.
- Bradshaw, C.P., Reinke, W.M., Brown, L. D., Bevans, K.B., & Leaf, P.J. (2008). ‘Implementation of school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in elementary schools: Observations from a randomized trial’. Education & Treatment of Children, No. 31, 1-26.
- Farrington, D.P. and Ttofi, M.M. (2009); School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization. Campbell Systematic Reviews, No.6