“Something happened at school today, Mum.” A pretty standard comment from a school-aged child as he climbs into the car at school pick up.
Usually followed by something along the lines of “I got a prize from the prize box,” “I got to feed the class fish” or “So-and-so brought birthday cupcakes for everyone in class”.
Followed by a standard, “That’s great, hun,” from you as you half-listen while thinking about what to make for dinner.
But when this is followed by, “So-and-so bullied me again”, it’s probably best to stop thinking about dinner for the time being.
Statistics show that one in four Australian school kids aged between eight and 14 years report being bullied every few weeks or more.
Bullying can have a lasting impact. We have shared heartbreaking stories in the past of children who have taken their own lives after bullying, including 14-year-old Dolly Everett and 13-year-old Libby Bell.
In many of these instances, the parents admit that they felt the school failed their children.
If your child is being bullied you WILL need to bring it up with the school. We spoke to Clinical Psychologist, Cliff Battley, to discover the best way to do so.
Tips for approaching your child’s school about bullying
1. Make an appointment with the appropriate staff member
Check if the school is aware of the issue. Often bullying happens at school on the playground and teachers are not aware it’s even happening. Your child may not have told a staff member about anything. Accordingly, do not assume the school is aware of the issue.
Be comforted, however, that in today’s environment, the school will want to eliminate the bullying as much as you.
Explain what your child has told you. Remember there are a number of dfferent types of bullying, not just physical bullying.
2. Ask for action
Once you have met and informed the relevant staff member of the issue, ask them what they plan to do. It’s important that they can give you an action plan, not just assurance that “this will stop.”
Also, ask how long you can expect to wait for an update.
3. Schedule a follow-up meeting
Based on the agreed time frame, schedule another meeting. It will help to show you are serious about wanting action and that they are accountable to the schedule they have defined.
4. Give them the agreed time to investigate the problem
There are two sides to every story. The school may need to get in contact with the other parties to discuss what’s been happening.
During this time, continue to talk to your child about what’s been happening and if things are getting better, worse, or staying the same.
You may want to keep a record book of your child’s mood and conversations.
If it doesn’t get better?
Should the school fail to resolve the issue, and the bullying continues, take the problem to a higher authority within the school,” Cliff suggests.
“If this does not work, contact the education department with administrative authority over the school. At this point make your actions known to the staff members who have failed to work with you to resolve the issue.
It can be hard to keep your cool when your child is faced with persistent bullying, especially if it appears nothing is happening.
Be as calm as you can, but also don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and continue to advocate for your child. This may mean pulling them out of that particular school.
If the bullying is not resolved, and you elect to withdraw your child from the school, be clear with both the school and the higher authorities as to the reasoning behind your decision.”
More bullying help
The world of bullying is a scary one. As parents, we need to be aware of what’s happening at school as this can impact our children at home too.
Please read our previous posts on bullying including: