Helping your child cope with bullying

Video footage of 15-year-old Casey Heynes, an Australian schoolboy who turned on a bully by picking him up and throwing him to the ground, has captured the attention of parents all over the world. Bullying is a very real situation for many children who su?er in silence.

Unfortunately, bullying is always present in schools, and it can be hard for teachers to control it. But as parents, you can make an effort to identify if your child is the target of bullies, and help them cope. Here are some tips:

  • Signs of bullying might be visible, such as bruises or other injuries, but are more likely to be a change in your child’s usual mood. Seeming anxious or not eating, or avoiding situations like catching a bus or attending school are all pointers. If you feel that your child won’t talk to you about it, bring up the subject of bullying, such as the Casey Heynes video, and use this particular example to explore your child’s experiences. Make sure they know that if they’re being bullied or know of bullying, they should talk to someone about it.

  • Children are sometimes reluctant to tell a parent about bullying because they think you’ll be disappointed in them. Make sure you focus on comfort and support. Praise them for being brave enough to talk about it, remind them that they aren’t alone – a lot of kids get bullied – and that the bully is behaving badly, not them.

  • Sometimes children think that it’s their fault they’re being bullied because of how they look or act. Mr they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told on them, the situation will get worse. It’s important you emphasise to your child that you’ll figure it out together, and that they’re no longer alone with this problem.

  • oost schools have a no-bullying policy, so your first stop should be with a teacher or counsellor. Reassure your child that you’ll do this without the bully knowing, and find out what your school’s policy is. often it won’t be a surprise to the school, as they will have heard about the bully from other parents. Some schools work with kids to give them strategies and coping mechanisms to stand up for themselves. They also work with the offending child’s family to see what can be done.

  • It may be tempting to tell your child to fight back as Casey did, but you should teach them not to respond or inflate the situation, as it could escalate into violence.

  • The boy Casey threw on the ground could have ended up with severe injuries. Encourage your child to walk away, hang out with others and tell an adult.

  • Encourage a buddy system. Get your child to make sure they’re always with someone at school, and get them to do the same for that person.

  • Try to teach your child how to hide their anger from the bully, as they thrive on that emotion. Counting to 10, walking away and cooling down can work, or get them to practise their “straight face”, which they

can use until they’re clear of danger.

  • Having strategies to ignore the bully can be useful, such as texting a friend or acting uninterested. This can be enough to bore the bully, as he or she won’t get a reaction. Practise this with your child.

  • Make sure you and your child talk about their problems to work out strategies or simply unload their anger. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, try to find a counsellor, older sibling or family friend

they can talk to instead.

  • Remove the cause of the bullying. If lunch money is the issue, get your child to take their food. If it’s a music player or cellphone, get them to leave it at home.

  • At the core of any child being bullied is the disintegration of their self-esteem. Get your child involved in clubs or sports that might help build their confidence, and a self-defence class is a great idea.

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