If your child is exhibiting signs of anxiety, changed eating and sleeping patterns, mood swings and avoiding social settings or does not want to go to school, bullying may be a potential cause, says a leading clinical child psychologist.
“We all know that conflict or fights between peers is a normal part of relationships and as they grow and mature, children need to develop a different set of skills to manage these conflicts, Dr Anna Cohen tells The Carousel.
“But we must be clear that these types of conflict are a normal part of growing up, and that relentless bullying requires a totally different response.”
Below, Anna offers advice to parents on how to spot the signs of bullying and how to help.
1. Identify the issue
If your child is showing signs of being bullied, attempt to discuss it with them in a calm environment and be aware that your child may not realise that what is happening to them is bullying.
Bullying is a daunting topic for any child. Ensure they know it is important to talk to someone, and acknowledge that they are doing the right thing by talking to you about the issue. You may have to take a back seat to allow your child to say what they want. If parents overact, it may discourage them from discussing the issue further.
If your child is being bullied, it is important that this is not being brought home with them. It may be necessary to supervise their online activity in relation to their social channels such as facebook, instagram and snapchat, or have them switch off screens to give periods to disconnect with others outside of home. Also, be aware that these social channels have strict policies on cyber bulling and can take action in regard to any issues.
3. Seek help
It is may be necessary to approach the school if you are concerned your child is being bullied. This provides the opportunity for strategies to be formulated with teachers to avoid escalation or further problems. It may be as simple as moving seats in a classroom, possibly closer to the teacher for easier observation. Your child’s teacher generally will have more of an idea about their interaction with their peers. Your child’s school will have a strict policy on how to respond to a child being bullied. In serious situations that pose a risk to your child’s safety, it may also be necessary to contact the police.
4. Connect with them
Ensure that your child knows they are able to discuss any issues with you and that you are offering them a safe and supportive home environment. If your child has come to you with concerns over bullying, make sure you are actively listening by taking note of body language and their tone of voice. This may provide insight into the severity of the issue and how it is affecting them. Your child needs to know that they are valued and that you are interested in what they are saying. Too often they just want to heard!
5. Encourage positive relationships for your child
Try to help your child improve their social skills by organising play-dates with their friends and other social activities such as sport. This will help your child develop closer friendships and make them more capable of tolerating and cooperating with others. Those close peer friends can support your child if they are being bullied, or in some cases may challenge the bullying, or even report the bullying when your child is reluctant to say something. As a parent, knowing the difference between being supportive and overacting is essential in helping your child deal with bullying. In understanding this, you will be more prepared and attentive to your child’s needs and be able to gain a better understanding of the extent they are being bullied. The most crucial strategy is to ensure that your child knows they have someone there to talk about the issue with.
Further information can be found here.