A change in a child’s grades, aggressive behaviour, mood swings, frequent tears or being left out of peer groups at school can be some of the visible signs a child is experiencing bullying. But it can be difficult to recognise. As educators, it is important to trust your instincts. If you have a feeling that a child may be a victim of bullying, it is important that you act.
Tackling bullying in your school:
- Make time to talk to the child who’s being bullied, privately. Show them that you want to hear about their experience. Also if it’s not bullying, that’s when they have a chance to tell you. “I noticed this happening earlier. Were you feeling alright about it? Is everything OK between you and the other student?”
- Make time to hear the whole story. If your student comes up and asks to tell you something while you’re busy, that’s totally fine. Just make time with them to tell you. “Hey, I’m really glad you’ve come to talk to me. Right now I have to go to lunch duty, but let’s have a proper talk after school.”
- Invite the child to come back. Kids do really worry about being a burden to their support people so make sure you’re inviting them to keep talking to you. “Thank you for taking the time to tell me what’s happening. I’d really like you to keep me updated if it happens again.”
- Be aware of the systems in school. Who do you go to for advice? Anytime a child is being bullied you shouldn’t be making decisions about how to handle it by yourself.
- If you can, avoid calling the bully out in front of the class. The embarrassment of being caught might cause the bully to be more aggressive rather than stop.
- If you do talk to the bully by themselves, own the observation rather than saying the victim told you. “I noticed that this has been happening and I want to know what it’s about.”
- Speak to both parties one on one rather than getting them together. Speaking to them one on one means that the both have a safe person to talk to rather than having to share in front of the other person.
- Try to get the bully to think of ways that they can make it better with the victim rather than forcing or suggesting they apologise. If the bully decides on the way to behave they are more likely to follow through instead of just doing what you suggest to appease you.
- Invite both the bully and the victim to call Kidsline. It’s free, confidential and we can help both parties problem solve and figure ways of coping.
- Fourteen per cent of the calls we receive at Kidsline are related to bullying. Kidsline buddies are trained to listen to the experiences that kids are having at school. Our goal is to validate their experience and their feelings. We then try and find out as much about the situation as possible before we look at some options. This will include exploring who some support people might be, looking at if the child is comfortable approaching the bully, but our main focus is to help the child feel safe at school again.
Bullying can damage a young person’s mental and physical well-being, resulting in low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In severe cases, they may feel that suicide is the only way out. Some studies say that children who are bullied are up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Kidsline recently had a call from a young girl who was experiencing bullying at school. Her mother helped her to call Kidsline and put her daughter on speaker phone. She was very shy and even though she didn’t talk much during the call, her mother contacted us afterwards to say how much her daughter had improved that night and how it had helped.
Kidsline is available free, 24/7 by calling 0800 54 37 54. Calls between 4pm – 9pm, Monday to Friday are answered by Buddies, specially trained year 12 and 13 students.