By Diana Koh, Assistant Manager of Epworth Community Relations
Most parents would not hesitate to step in to help if they find out that their child has been bullied. The term “bullying” is used describe a range of situations in which a child experiences “intimidation, threat, ridicule, being ostracised or hurt, whether, physically, socially, emotional or psychologically”. Different factors like age or the way the child is bullied will determine how parents should respond to help the child. Here are some steps that you can take to support your child when he experiences bullying.
Remember that your child looks to you as a role model. Maintain your calm and listen to your child as he shares about how he was bullied. Do not be too quick to jump to conclusions. This is not a time to adjudge or to blame anyone. If we do so, your child may just stop sharing. Children may not want to share that they have been bullied for various reasons. Some feel embarrassed; some are afraid of how their parents will react; others are afraid that the bullying will get worse if perpetrators found out that they have been reported against.
Therefore, it is important to listen attentively and be sensitive to how your child is feeling; whether your child is feeling hurt or fearful.
2. COMFORT & ASSURANCE
Attend to your child’s feelings. Sometimes, children might think that it was their own fault that they were bullied. Children need to know that were not responsible or the cause for being bullied.
When your child talks about a bullying incident, assure and encourage them that it took a lot of courage for your child to share it with you. Reassure your child with love.
3. MUTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING
Take time to engage your child in creating a list of possible responses to the bullying situations. Allow your child to freely give suggestions. Do not correct your child’s suggestions or contribute your own. If your child is unable to come up with any suggestions, you can prompt your child using simple words as cues for your child to pick up and build on. For example, “How about…”. It is important that your child is participating to build up the suggested response. This will help the child take ownership so that the response will be acted on.
Together, evaluate the responses and choose the responses your child feels most confident of carrying out; including your child making it known to the bully that the teacher and parents will be told about any bullying incidents.
The responses may be your child making simple statements to the bully that can be used to stop bullying behaviour. For example, “Please do not take my belongings. I am sure you will not want someone to do the same to you.” Or, “I appreciate it if we all can be polite to each other. It does not feel good to be bullied. I am sure you would not like it if someone does the same to you.” And, “If you continue to bully me, I will have no choice but to report on you to the teacher or my parents.”
Role-playing is a fantastic way of restoring your child’s confidence. Depending on the choice of responses that both of you make, parent can take the role of the bully in the role play while your child practise the response. You may choose more than one appropriate response and role play each of them. Practise until your child is reasonably confident to carry out the responses.
You can also take the role of a teacher while your child practises how to report a bullying incident to the teacher. Teach your child to make eye contact and speak clearly and firmly.
5. MONITOR THE SITUATION
When the child is ready to respond to the bully, parents should also address some of the child’s anxiety and apprehension. Reassure your child of your support and that you will always be available with patience and with listening ears.
If the bullying persists or becomes worse, let your child know that you are stepping in to get support from the school. Make an appointment with his class teacher to discuss the matter. Be calm and make it a point to work with the school to resolve the bullying problem.
Stand together with your child and continually build confidence by teaching appropriate responses. It helps to empower your child and prevent future bullying situations.