You might not want to think about it, but bullying happens. Be sure to take the necessary measures to prevent and protect your child from becoming a victim.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Singapore Children’s Society, one in five primary school students have experienced some form of bullying.
As parents, it is extremely important for you to be aware of any sign in your child that might indicate he is being bullied in school so that you can take the necessary steps to help your child. “If a child is indeed getting bullied, some of the most common signs include becoming more irritable/nervous, having trouble sleeping/nightmares, unexplained injuries, complaining of psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches, changes in eating habits, poor school performance, low mood, and school refusal,” says clinical psychologist Dr Vanessa von Auer of VA Psychology Center, “At more severe stages, the bullied victim can also demonstrate symptoms of depression.”
As it hurts for any parent to see their child being mistreated by others, so here are some steps you can take to prevent and protect him from being bullied.
Educate Your Child
Young children may not necessarily understand what exactly bullying entails. Bullying comes in many different forms, and some may not come across as bullying as obviously as others. A child who is being hurtfully teased by his friends may not realize that their behaviour should not be tolerated, compared to a child who is being physically bullied.
Teaching your child what constitutes bullying is key
so he learns how to identify when it is happening, and not
just accept this behaviour from others.
It is not only important for parents to teach their child what is bullying, but also how to deal with bullies. Young children may not have sufficient knowledge on how they should respond to bullying, and letting them deal with this problem on their own may not be the most effective long-term solution. Geraldine Tan, principal psychologist at The Therapy Room, says, “Young children have to be guided and taught in how to deal with bullying. Any form of help is not overprotecting them – to overprotect them is not to expose them to these situations and keep them in a cocoon. To help them learn, the adult has to step up and teach them the skills the first time before they are able to use these skills themselves later on.”
Learn by Example
Teaching your child how to deal with bullies does not only have to take place at home. If you see your child being mistreated by another kid in public, use this opportunity to demonstrate to your child how he should respond. “Walk up to the bully and give a stern warning while your child is by your side,” recommends Tan, “This is to show your child that such behaviour is not tolerated.”
It’s All About How You Look
It’s not a secret that bullies tend to pick on those who appear weaker than them. Body language says a lot about a person, so if your child looks weak or timid, it might encourage others to bully him. That’s why it is crucial to teach your child how to present himself in a confident manner by adopting a more positive body language. “Teach the child to be confident and assertive, for example, by maintaining eye contact or walking in an upright posture,” says Dr von Auer. By displaying a confident exterior, your child will less likely be a target for bullies to pick on.
What’s Inside Counts Too
It’s one thing to look confident, but pair that with actually feeling confident, your child won’t be one to mess with. Instilling healthy amounts of confidence and self-esteem in your child will allow him to understand that his self-worth should not be determined by how others treat him. “Improve self-confidence by getting the child to understand his strengths and not be affected by others,” says Daniel Koh, psychologist at Insights Mind Centre. By doing this, you are letting your child know that nobody has the right to hurt him or make him feel small in any way.
No, this doesn’t mean teaching your child to hurl mean words back at his bully. Rather, let him practise speaking in a strong and firm voice, but still in a polite tone. Again, confidence plays such a huge role here. If your child feels confident in his own self, it will be easier for him to translate that confidence verbally, and show others that he will not be stepped on so easily.
Be a Social Butterfly
Kids who are usually by themselves tend to get picked on more easily, just because it is easier for a bully to hold power over someone who is alone.
Ensure that your child has a good circle of friends in school so
that they can support and protect each other. A group of people
is far more intimidating than someone who is by himself,
so they are less likely to be targeted by bullies.
Take Safe Precautions
Being able to stand up to a bully may feel satisfying, but it is always safer to seek help from someone should the bullying get out of control. Dr von Auer recommends deciding on a person – friend or adult – to get help from when your child feels like he is in danger. This will make your child feel safe, knowing that he does not have to handle this alone and that there are other people who are able to help him.
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