Bullying is one of the most common risk factors leading to mental health conditions in children and yet we don’t give it much attention that it needs. But it can impact a child in a huge way. But are you flummoxed about what to do when your child faces bullying?
The first thing to do is to recognize signs. A child may express anger and shame or even low self-esteem and self-confidence.
“They can go through emotions of anger, shame and helplessness, resulting in low self-esteem and self-confidence. In fact, when your child, otherwise cheerful and happy, begins to show signs of irritability, crying spells, staying aloof or having temper outburst on small triggers. These are some of the red flags that you child may be undergoing episodes of bullying,” says Mimansa Singh Tanwar, Clinical Psychologist, Head Fortis School Mental Health Program, Fortis National Mental Health Program.
For most children, it is difficult to open up about bullying, or share their experience with a parent or teacher. This may be because of the real or perceived imbalance of power. It could also be because of the fact that this unwanted aggressive behavior may be coming from a friend or groups of friends, and that leaves them feeling confused on how to handle or stop it. Their failed attempts may create strong feelings of helplessness and a vicious cycle of being bullied.
At the same time time, the expert points out that lack of intervention and support from teachers and parents can lead to various side effects among children.
There could be a decline in academic performance, poor concentration, interpersonal adjustment issues, absenteeism or disruptive behaviors. A child may even develop mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression having a drastic long-term effect on their life.
How can a parent help a child who faces bullying
As a parent if you recognize the signs of bullying or abuse. Here are some of the things that you can do.
1. Ask your child
If you are seeing some signs of your child not being their usual self, ask them directly about how are there peer relationships going and are there any episodes of bullying they may be subjected to. Understand that bullying is not of one type. It can be physical, verbal and emeotional. And bullying typically is much more than friendly teasing.
2. Be calm while hearing them out
Stay calm and composed while they open up. It is normal for you as a parent to also feel emotions of anger, helplessness and worry along with them. However, refrain from expressing those as an initial reaction. Give them the space to share, provide your comfort and support.
3. Equip them with emotional skills
Instill the assertiveness skills that your child would need to handle the episodes. Work with them on scripts for various ways in which they can respond to it. Using humour to disarm the situation, practicing through role plays different situations and maintaining a positive body language are ways in which you can empower your child to deal with bullying.
Also read: Do we carry the trauma of childhood bullying into our adulthood? A clinical psychologist reveals
4. Have free flowing communication
Maintain your line of communication with them and check in regularly on how they are doing. Help them recognize their strengths to boost their self-esteem and confidence.
5. Report it to the school
If the bullying continues to persist and becomes severe, reporting the school and taking appropriate steps to stop the bullying should be taken. When necessary, provide counseling support to your child to deal with psychological impact and skills to cope.
According to the expert, schools should be focused on building a bully-free safe space through anti-bullying awareness programs. Talking about the psychological impact of bullying and building a positive environment within a school should encouraged through interactions, activities and campaigns.
The role of peer support as a bystander and responding with empathy and kindness as a part of school’s culture and well-being should be encouraged and reinforced. Also, have a system in place where reported cases are handled with sensitivity and support, both to the child getting bullied and the child who is bullying is be provided.