Anti-bullying advice and support
Bullying is an issue of concern to many parents, not just those of children with special educational needs and disabilities. The effects can be devastating and can have an adverse impact on a child’s future life.
Types of bullying
Bullying takes on many forms and there are several different types of bully. However, they all have the same result; they cause misery to their victims, which can lead to stress-related conditions.
The following are examples of types of bullying:
- Physical bullying
- Direct verbal bullying: this includes taunts, name-calling and verbal threats to the victim’s face.
- Indirect verbal bullying: this includes cruel comments behind the victim’s back intended for the victim to overhear, unkind notes, letters or graffiti.
- Exclusion and isolation bullying: this is deliberate exclusion from playground activities and friendship groups, or total ignorance of the victim. The victim is often alone at playtimes and is avoided in the classroom.
- Racial bullying: the victim is targeted because of his or her race and this can encompass all the other types of bullying. Verbal attacks usually make reference and fun of the child’s ethnic origin.
- Digital bullying: text messaging, mobile phone calls and messages, e-mail.
Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying
Not all children will admit to being bullied, but there will be signs, some subtle and some obvious, that your child is the victim of bullying. These include feigning illness to avoid having to go to school, a decline in subject grades, reluctance to participate in extra-curricular activities, inexplicably losing money or personal property, or (in older children) taking longer than usual to walk to and from school because they have taken a different route in order to avoid the bully or bullies. Physical signs of bullying might include torn clothes, or unexplained scratches, cuts or bruises and your child may be begin suffering nightmares, bedwetting or mood swings.
What should you do if your child is being bullied?
If you suspect your child is being bullied, don’t ignore it and don’t be afraid to report it.
- Reassuring your child that it is not their fault is one of the most important steps a parent can take. Teach your child be proud of himself/herself and any differences about which he may feel conscious. It’s OK to be different. Many of the world’s successful people did not get where they are by being the same as everyone else.
- Inform your child’s school, but firstly ask your child whether he/she would prefer to speak to their class teacher or head before you do so. If necessary, ask the school to protect your anonymity. Sometimes the best way to expose a bully is for the teachers to catch him or her red-handed.
- Find out what the school’s current bullying policy is and how the school intends to monitor the situation. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy in place, which may be part of their wider behaviour management policy. The Department of Education provides advice for school leaders and school staff on Preventing and Responding to Bullying as part of their overall behaviour policy.
- If the school appears to be ignoring the situation, or taking no constructive action, write a formal letter to the head expressing your grievances and copy the letter to the local education authority. If you still do not feel that the school is being supportive you should also use the school’s complaints procedure to pursue your concerns.
- Teach your child strategies for dealing with the bullying. Tell your child to stay in a group when at all possible and to let you know exactly where they are going and with whom at all times. Enrol him/her in a self-defence class, not as a method of harming the bully, but as a means of defending himself. If the bullying is verbal, tell your child to confront the bully by saying, “Please don’t call me that again. It’s cruel and hurtful.”
- Encourage your child to feel comfortable talking to you, a teacher or a counsellor and to report every incident of bullying.
- If your child is able to do so, ask him or her to keep a dated diary of events that you can share, or make your own record of incidents, including any mood swings or emotional and physical effects that you notice that you may think is attributed to the bullying.
Getting help and advice
You can also seek help and advice from the following organisations:
- BullyingUK - Tel: 0808 800 2222
- Kidscape - Tel: 08451 205 204
- Anti-Bullying Alliance
- NSPCC - Tel: 0808 800 5000
- Childline - Tel: 0800 1111
- Childnet International - Tel: 020 7639 6967
- Mencap - Tel: 0808 808 1111