Bullying in the school years can take many forms – verbal taunts, physical abuse, exclusion from social groups (frequently perpetrated by girls), and cyber bullying where social networking tools are used to harass and stigmatize individuals. It is unfortunately a fact of life that the majority of school children will at some point be a victim of bullying. However, there is a significant difference between experiencing the occasional verbal barb in the playground versus being the victim of systematic, prolonged bullying.
Good schools take the issue of systematic, prolonged bullying of individuals in their care seriously. They firstly will acknowledge that bullying does exist in their school – as it does in all schools. They will have a written policy in place to manage instances of bullying which should be readily available to parents upon request. Finally, schools will be prepared to work with all parties affected – the victim, the perpetrator, and their respective families – to bring about a satisfactory resolution to the issue. This may involve organising mediation, counselling and/or providing access to social skills programs.
As a parent, it is important to acknowledge the negative impact that bullying can have on your child. Simply telling your child to ignore the bullying, falling back on old adages like ‘sticks and stones…’, or encouraging them to fight back are largely ineffective in stopping instances of serious bullying and can often make the situation worse. It is far better to help your child to gain the necessary skills to overcome bullying and be less susceptible to it in the future by building their levels of emotional resilience and working co-operatively with your child’s school to put a stop to the bullying. The bottom line is that your child has the right to feel safe and secure in the school environment and you can play an important role in ensuring that happens.