How to help your bullied child

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Bullying in South Africa is once again in the spotlight with many parents unsure of how they can stop this or help their children.

School is supposed to be a happy place of learning, being with friends, laughs and working towards a brighter future. Unfortunately, for many children this is not the case.

The Department of Basic Education offers the following tips to help parents understand the problems their children may face when harassed at school.

Warning signs you need to be aware of when your child is being bullied:

• Sudden decrease in quality of school work
• Sudden loss of interest in favourite school activities
• Sudden decreased interest in school
• Frequent illnesses such as headaches and stomach aches
• Sleep issues such as nightmares and sleeplessness
• Coming home with unexplained scratches, bruises and torn clothing
• Talks about being sad, anxious, depressed, or has panic attacks

What can you as a parent do to help your child?

• Stay calm
• Assure children that you will immediately investigate and report the situation to the school principal or senior teacher
• Check if your child needs to avoid certain areas on school property at certain times
• Suggest that your school increases supervision in the high-risk areas where the child has to go or more closely monitor the child’s interactions with other learners
• Encourage your child to talk to an adult, such as a supportive teacher, every day to provide an update on the mistreatment
• Be sensitive to the fact that your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed
• Express confidence that you, the adults at school, and your child will be able to find a solution
• Ask your child to express his/ her thoughts and feelings about what happened
• Let your child know that it is normal to feel hurt, fear, and anger
• Don’t tell your child to ignore the bully. Most of the time, ignoring doesn’t work
• Don’t promise that you will not tell anyone
• Monitor your children’s whereabouts and their friendships
• Watch for signs of depression and anxiety in your child, and do not hesitate to seek professional counselling

The most important thing to remember in this case is not to give up.

What can schools do to help?

• Make sure an adult knows what is happening to their children
• Enforce anti-bully laws as part of the Code of Conduct for learners
• Make it clear that bullying is never acceptable
• Recognise that bullying can occur at all levels within the school
• Hold a school conference day or forum devoted to bullying/ victim problems
• Increase adult supervision in the schoolyard, halls and toilets
• Emphasise caring, respect and safety
• Emphasise the consequences of hurting others
• Enforce consistent and immediate consequences for aggressive behaviour
• Improve communication among school administrators, teachers, parents and learners
• Have a school problem box where learners can report problems, concerns and offer suggestions
• Help bullies with anger control and developing empathy

It is very important to keep in mind the possible reasons why children could be bullying others. These can include medical, psychological, developmental and family problems.

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Michelle Swart
Digital Coordinator

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