It’s anti-bullying week 2015 – a year since I wrote the last anti bullying post and with time wooshing by so quickly it is even more important to be happy whenever possible and get the most out of your life, whatever that may mean for you and your family.
Bullying is very emotive subject as the impact of being bullied can be devastating and the effects long term.
However there is some good news. The government released a report on 15th November 2015 claiming a drop of 30,000 fewer children bullied in secondary schools. It details how since 2010, teachers have had more support to combat behaviour that leads to bullying in school and how they have powers to enable them to check pupils electronic devices for evidence of cyber-bullying.
The report also states that the new figures come as part of the government’s continued drive to deliver an excellent education for every child - and make sure teachers have the tools they need to tackle bullying and violence in schools . There is also a pledge to train every teacher in not just how to tackle serious behaviour issues, but how to deal with low-level disruption that stops children from learning properly.
Let’s hope that this really does follow through into every-day teaching and that SEN is part of this training. As we know, invisible disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, anxiety, sensory integration disorder – there is such a big list it is impossible to name them all – contribute to children using poor behaviour to avoid situations that they find difficult.
Despite the good news above, if you or a family member are experiencing bullying, it is not easy to be happy. Instead, you or your child could be feeling lots of different things including helplessness, hopelessness, fear, rejection, worry, sadness, dejection, anxiety (anxiety can present itself in many different ways too), confusion, depression, exhaustion, distress, illness, humiliation and worthlessness. It is no wonder that those targeted (or victims – though not everyone likes to be seen as a victim) by bullies can become physically unwell.
This week I was lucky enough to attend a course run by Contact a Family about bullying and where to seek support, so if you or a member of your family is experiencing bullying, read on for support and information.
So what exactly is bullying?
The anti-bullying advisory website defines bullying as:
The repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face to face or through cyberspace
I think that really sums up what bullying is and it's not very nice at all. I encountered bullying for a long time at school and I haven’t forgotten how I felt about it or how it altered my perception and attitude towards learning and attending school.
I dreaded secondary school and even now at 43 can still, in some circumstances, feel uncomfortable when dealing with any school-related problems for my children. Such is the long term impact that bullying can have.
So what can you do to help and support your child?
- Remember the Equalities Act 2010? It applies to everyone, so if your child is being bullied and you suspect it is as a result of their disability, then check out the Act here for further information.
- Keep a log of all incidents no matter how small or irrelevant they may seem, everything will help support your child and you will see if any patterns are developing with the bullying behaviour. Include in the log:
- what happened?
- who did it?
- did anyone see what happened?
- who did you tell?
- are school involved, if so how?
- what effect has this had on your child both inside and outside of school?
- Check out whether School have an Anti-Bullying Policy. If they don’t then look for the ‘Behaviour Policy’ (all maintained schools MUST have a behaviour policy and within it there should be reference to dealing with bullying behaviour. You can then use this to discuss what is happening with your child’s school.
- If that doesn’t work then you can involve the Governors. Contact a Family have some template letters that are free to use here
- If your child is being bullied within your neighbourhood you can contact the council or, if applicable, housing association (you will probably be asked to keep a diary of incidents). They can take action against other tenants that intimidate or harass others
- If your child is experiencing cyber-bullying then taking steps to stop the bully from making contact is imperative. Most social media accounts have ways to block troublesome people. Look up with your child how to do this or ask for the support of other adults or older children if you don’t know how.
- If the perpetrator is another school-age child, then liaise with school as they do have powers to check electronic devices for evidence of bullying in some circumstances.
- Tell your child to not respond to any messages sent by the bully(ies) and save any evidence where the bully has made contact.
Long-term repercussions on mental health
The Anti-Bullying Alliance has produced a report in conjunction with Young Minds which details that over 25% of young people (16-25 year olds) who were bullied at school went on to develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. With this in mind, it is imperative that anyone encountering bullying is able to get the support they need as soon as possible.
Use charities such as www.bullying.co.uk , the Anti-Bullying Alliance or Contact a Family to get up-to-date advice about what you can do to help your child/young person.