Today is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, here in Australia.
Part of the definition of bullying from the Bullying. No Way! website – “Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm.” So it is not one off incidents but ongoing, repeated misuse of power. Approximately 1 in 4, year 4 to year 9 students reported being bullied in Australian schools. Fortunately, most schools are aware of bullying and have appropriate policies in place.
My son experienced some bullying type behaviour against him soon after he started high school. Fortunately it didn’t last too long and the school was quick to help him. Most of the perpetrators moved on from the school, over time, which also helped. My son also learnt strategies to deal with it. He also had friends that would have helped him as well. Some of his group of friends he had from the beginning of high school, until the end & they are still part of his social group.
My son struggled with moving from a tiny primary school to a large P-12 school for high school. The whole grade of his new school was bigger than the whole of his old primary school! We feel that it was the right thing for him to go to 2 different schools and to experience a transition (albeit a hard one) between primary school and high school, rather than one major transition at the end of school. He had issues very early on such as his school hired laptop breaking through no fault of his own and then him being scared to open it in case it was broken; and his eye was also accidentally scratched with a girls hat. After being keen to start at the new school it became apparent that he was struggling with such a big change. It was also hard because at that time grade 7 was still part of primary school for state schools in Queensland, so he could have easily gone back to his old school in his first year of high school. A few different unfortunate incidents & circumstances impacted on the misuse of power that was occurring.
So how did we find out about the bullying and how did we help as parents? From memory I think he first spoke about it when he was too tired & upset after soccer training to do his homework. We’re glad that he was able to talk to us about it. He said that kids were picking on him mainly at lunch time and on the bus as well. He was unfortunately put with one of the perpetrators in his group on school camp which didn’t help. It was then a matter of convincing him that we needed to talk to the school about it. He was hesitant as he thought the bullying might become worse. We did contact his head of house who talked to our son and those involved. They also arranged for counselling with the school counselors and particularly working on his coping strategies and how not to let them get to him and be the victim. They recommended a book (which I can’t remember the name of), to read as parents to help talk to him with copying strategies. I also think it helped that he had some peers outside of school through club soccer and church. Here is a link to ways parents can respond, most of which I think we covered.
We generally tried to keep the lines of communication open with our son and helped him to make the decisions about what to do as much as possible, so that he felt ok to talk about what was happening at school. The school pushed for more counselling then he had but he didn’t want it at the time. Things did improve but he could have gone back to counselling if needed.
We were surprised as he was an outgoing, social child who had been very popular in his primary school. In hindsight we believe that some of the boys might have been jealous of his ease at talking to girls and saw that he cried easily so used this vulnerability to their advantage.
It might have been easy to let him move schools but we never really contemplated this as an option. Often times the child can become a victim in the new school if they haven’t learnt what to do. I do know that children have been moved from one school to another for reasons of bullying but another child will be moved from the school they’ve gone to, to the one they came from for similar reasons. Different schools and teachers will work for different children. It is generally, but not always, better to work through the situation and teach children valuable life lessons.
Although it was a problem in the first year or so at the new school, things did improve. My son did not want to contemplate a change of school for senior, even to do subjects that he would have liked to do but weren’t offered at his school. He had established his group of friends and being a social child that was more important than school subjects.
This is just a little of our story, in the hopes that it might help someone else going through a similar situation.
Have you or your child/ren experienced bullying? If so, how did you handle it?