Parents Helping Children Who Are Bullied - Voices of Experience
By Yvette Vignando - 20th March 2011
As I mentioned in this earlier post 'Messages to Bullies - Forgiven not Forgotten", on 14 March I sent out interviews to a number of adults who offered to share their stories of being bullied as children. Having still not had the time to compile their responses into a coherent article, I keep wanting to publish parts of their stories because it seems the right time for their voices to be heard.
Why is it timely? Because mainstream media and the internet has erupted with discussions about a recent incident in a Sydney school. And by the way, the very best thing I have read so far is by Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald, yesterday - please read it - it is excellent: "Biffing Bullies is a Long Shot"
Because the incident has provoked an emotional and passionate response from people about how children should react to bullying, I did not want to wait any longer to share the voices of the adults who lived through bullying, not unscathed. but with wisdom to share. Once again, these responses are unedited, real and I think essential reading for all parents.
Do you have any words of advice for parents who believe that their child may be the victim of bullying or even that their child may be acting as a bully?
Be involved in your child’s life and interests. The more you are involved with them and communicate with them, the more you will have a sense of their current mood (even if they won’t tell you what is causing it) and disposition. Changes in mood or solemn outlook will become easier to identify and investigate to see if there is some way to help. Sometimes, the basis for any such help simply begins with a loving and confidence inspiring home environment that can serve as a safe harbour from external issues and a source of strength to face any challenges.
Don’t ignore it. Don’t tell them to suck it up or that they are weak - it takes strength for a kid to ask for help. Address the behaviour – because quite frankly – bullying is never right.
Talk to other adults – teachers or psychologists, for example – about it if you’re unsure how to help your child deal with it. Read about other situations and arm yourself with as much information as possible, to help yourself help your child feel more confident and able to get through it all.
Whatever you do, don’t do nothing, talk to you child and reassure them. It’s very possible that the child will not want you to do anything, because they may be afraid of how the bullies might react. If the teacher/ principal is unwilling /unable to do anything, look for another school. If necessary go to the police, especially where there is violence involved or text/ internet messages where there is a record of the activity, evidence, that is something traceable and tangible the cops can use. Try your local police station,but most there are snowed under with work. Don’t be put off, go to crime stoppers or through you state police official channels, write to the chief commissioner he will know where to take the matter, the police minister in your state may also be helpful. Also go to state education office if teachers/ Principal are not helpful.
The small nasty stuff will become big nasty stuff if you don’t act.
To other victims of bullying. It wasn’t your fault but the future is in your hands. Don’t wait, act. but act in you favour, not out of anger or revenge but to make your situation better. You can repair some of the damage done. One: ask for help from mum dad or anybody else who is in authority. Two: call kids helpline and tell them what is happening tell them what you need to do to get your life back on track. Don’t wait for anybody to do things, they wont. Don’t put your life on hold hoping for justice you need to have you life back on track as soon as possible, get the ball rolling yourself, Kids Helpline and Lifeline can help with this sort of stuff and at least point you to the right people who can help.
Take action, sit down with the child, talk it out and show them what the consequences are. Do not ignore it.
It is important to name the behaviour for what it is - the child needs to say "stop bullying me". Kids don't always know that their behaviour is bullying. It is also important to ascertain if your child is bullying others as well as being bullied. These roles are not fixed.
Advice to other parents. Sadly, in the real world, there's always going to be some bully to deal with. So the best strategy is to give their kids the way of handling it. Give the kid being picked on some breathing space at home. Also give their kids confidence. Show them that in a way they're better than the bullies. Especially teach them to stand their ground. And keep throwing the comment "Equal terms, Sonny," back at the bullies once in a blue moon.
One other thing I'd suggest is let the kids being bullied read some Jewish experience throughout the centuries...about how when the world has thrown immense stuff at one people, they've managed to still keep going and be fresh as daisies creatively and in a contributing sense to the world. That's one thing that did always help me get through my worst experiences. They're the world's champions at surviving all the bastardization that's happened to them and finding a way to still do some good.
For the parents of a child who is a bully...tell them there's no guts in picking on someone weaker than themselves...that it demeans them by them doing so. Also point out to them it's not a great idea trying to avoid being picked on by becoming on eof the victimizers. That again is a coward's option. Explain to them that there are third path alternatives. Neither the victim nor victimizer. And perhaps show them a constructive path...like getting them to instead protect those being bullied. Where they'll be a fan favourite, not a heel.
Listen, really listen to your children. They may not say much but if they mention it, then it is probably bad and they feel they have no options left.
Talk to the teachers, try to work out ways that you can work together to help the child through this period without causing it to become worse.
You can't do this for them, you can be an advocate but you can't fix it. You can try to give them new skills to work through the feelings.
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Parentline – 13 22 89
What’sUp – 0800 9428787
Lifeline – 0800 543354
Parent Help – 0800 568856