No parent wants to see their child worrying or fearful of being bullied.
However, statistics show that one in four Australian school kids aged between eight and 14 years report being bullied every few weeks or more.
Knowing the harmful physical and emotional impact bullying can have on young children, it’s important for parents to help their kids find ways to cope with these challenges.
Mums Hester Leung and Sema Musson know all too well the damaging effects bullying can have on children. Both women have dealt with the difficult situation of a child that is being bullied. Now, they are making it their mission to share their tips with other parents of children who are being bullied.
The realities of bullying
Firstly, it’s important to understand what bullying actually is. Sema says, “If the words and actions of others are repeatedly and deliberately causing harm – it is bullying.”
Let’s face it, the school playground can be tough! Highs and lows are a normal part of school life and learning to overcome obstacles is part of growing up and building resilience. However, we also need our kids to be able to recognise when it all becomes too much and what to do about it.
It was heart-breaking earlier in the year when Ava came home and shared how her day went. Again and again, there were versions of the same sad story. ‘The girls in my class were forming a club. I asked if I can join too. But they said, ‘No we have enough already. There’s no room for you. We can choose who can join and who doesn’t.’ Mum, I don’t understand why I couldn’t join in? Why couldn’t there be one more? They were being so mean,’ — says Sema.
We all know that self-doubt and wanting to fit in is a normal part of life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get that much easier when we become adults, but I suppose we learn to be tough and to cope with setbacks.
As a parent of a child who is experiencing these feelings, you can feel powerless. Sema explains that if children learn when they are young how to navigate difficult situations, this can help build their resilience and confidence.
We are all braver than we think. Being brave is not about being the hero, it is about having the confidence to speak up and be yourself. It’s about getting back up and trying again when something doesn’t work out,” — Sema says.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying
Having witnessed the effects of bullying on their children, Selma and Hester have co-authored a book called ‘Being Brave’. It is aimed at empowering pre-teen readers and offering advice on how to navigate awkward and unpleasant situations.
As a parent you can feel powerless when you have a child that is being bullied, but there are things you can do. You can learn to recognise bullying behaviour, talk to the school, get professional advice and make sure your child knows that you are there,” — says Sema.
Here are Sema and Hester’s five ways to help encourage your child to be brave and tackle bullying.
1. Be Curious
“Let your child know that it is okay not to know the answer. No one can know the answer to everything; not even you as their parent! Encourage them to be curious and create an open dialogue between yourself and your child. Urge them to ask for support when things are weighing in and don’t feel right,” says Sema.
2. Practice mindfulness
Internal noise can be so unwavering, and sometimes it can get too much for adults and children alike.
“Mindfulness is just as important for kids as it is for busy parents. Encourage your child to go outside, immerse themselves in nature and breathe in the fresh air. Teaching your child to deliberately breath in and out will calm their mind down. This is a good tool to have when they’re experiencing self-doubt and frustrations,” says Hester.
3. Tell a positive story
“Self-doubt is challenging. It’s something we all go through during many points in life. Indeed, it can be tricky dealing with it at its inception. If your child is telling themselves things like ‘I can’t, I’m wrong, I will fail’ a parent has to try and divert this into a positive story,” says Sema.
She suggests speaking words of positivity and affirmation such as ‘You are kind, you are smart, you are important.’
“Be sure to emphasise to your child that it is important to get back up again. Even when things don’t work out,” she says.
4. Write it all down
Teaching your child to utilise certain tools can be an effective way to manage self-esteem issues and help them to find confidence.
“Journaling can be a very effective way to help your child clear their head. It is stimulating for them and allows them to connect their thoughts and help to see another perspective,” says Hester.
5. Trust in your children
It’s too easy to get caught up in competition at school. However, it’s important for parents to let their children be aware that things do not always need to be just right, and that they don’t need to be perfect.
“Let your child know that it is okay to get something wrong and feel unsure. Feel free to share the mistakes you’ve made and how you learned. Most importantly, let your child know you love them for who they are and that they are brave by being themselves,” says Sema.
Remember, bullying is never acceptable and it can have a serious and lasting impact. If your child is being bullied and you feel that you need help and support, get in touch with kids Helpline via telephone (1800 55 1800), web chat or email.