Recent reports suggest that the age bullying starts is getting younger, making it increasingly important that us parents are able to spot the signs that something is wrong and to help our kids understand what they can do if they start to become a target for a bully.
Experts are now saying that specific comments, that can seem quite throw away to us grown ups, including ‘your hair looks weird, ’your lunch smells,’ and ‘you’re not my friend anymore,’ can really hurt and upset our young children and can cause further problems for them, such as anxiety and stress. This in turn then leads to problems such as not being able to sleep. Young girls in particular can be very mean, making ‘bitchy’ comments without always realising it. but if mum raises her eyebrows and passes a comment about what someone is wearing, then so will their child.
It was towards the end of last term, just before we all broke up for the summer holidays, when my daughter, who has an impressive appetite but is of an average size for her age, started to be bullied. She has always eaten what is put in front of her and at first I thought it was nothing when she had come home from school, not upset in the slightest, but asking me, ‘ why were the other girls laughing at how much she ate?’ My initial reaction was that they were just curious and perhaps jealous that my daughter had such an exciting lunch box. I also knew it was the holidays at the end of the week, so told her to ignore them and it would go away. Well it did, but it obviously had more of an effect on my daughter than I thought. During the summer holidays she would barely eat anything, she wasn’t under the weather but she would just tell me she wasn’t hungry or was full. I don’t think I had ever heard her mutter that word before, ever! It took me nearly the whole of the summer holidays to get her back to eating normally. When school started again in September, of course I was worried the same thing would happen again, so I spoke to her teacher and just explained how this one, possibly insignificant comment, had turned out to be so hurtful and destructive – thankfully things have been fine so far.
It seems obvious now, but at the time it took me quite a while to realise her behaviour was because of this comment at school, so I have thought of some (hopefully helpful) points which might help you identify if your child is being picked on.
Perhaps your little one has become very quiet all of a sudden. Maybe they aren’t talking to you about what they did in their day at school or nursery, when before they really enjoyed talking about their day. You could start to see sudden changes in their eating behaviour and also in their sleeping patterns with them maybe becoming restless at night or being unwilling to be left alone.
If you do discover that your child is being bullied, it can be hard to know what to do next and to see past that initial anger. Firstly, I’d suggest that you try and stay calm and have a nice chat with your child. Listen intently to what they have to say to you. Make sure that they themselves understand that being bullied is not acceptable and that it is not their fault. Find out from your child who was present at the time – did another child see? It goes without saying, but you must contact your child’s school and make sure that they are aware of the situation and work alongside the school staff to develop a way of stopping the bullying. Discuss, with your child, ways to deal with the bullying and encourage them to ignore it and walk away.
It is never nice to find out that your child is being bullied at school and I’m sure as a mum you hope to never have to deal with that situation. There are ways to help and support your child, but if you’re finding it particularly hard, there are various groups on the internet to whom you can talk to, or drop me a message.