Bullying is like a disease that just keeps growing in someone who is addicted to it. On the other hand, the victim keeps suffering and cocooning himself/herself with fear, trauma, and perceived embarrassment. Bullying has been compared to an epidemic. We already know about the evils of bullying, and we have discussed in detail the consequences in our previous articles.
Some of the shocking statistics state that 90% of students in grades 4-8 report having been harassed or bullied, 28% of students in grades 6-12 experience bullying, and 20% of students in grades 9-12 experience bullying. The numbers just keep increasing. In India, way back in 2017, data suggested that 42% of students of Class 4 to 8 and 36% of Class 9 to 12 have experienced bullying.
When a child is bullied at school or anywhere else, the first thing that they go through is self-doubt. They start finding faults in themselves rather than thinking that there is nothing wrong with them. They go through a turmoil of emotions which includes, fear, shame, social exclusion, loneliness, and much more. And, most of them choose to suffer alone, and not seek help. It is seen that over 10% of students who drop out of school do so due to being bullied repeatedly.
Hence, parents need to keep the communication channels open so that in the case of any unwanted incident, they should be able to open up to you. So, communication is the key. And, as a parent, you should be able to help them and guide them in the right direction. It is not that you will fight on their behalf, rather you should empower them to fight back on their own.
Let us understand how you as a parent can interact with your child about bullying and help them stand up against it.
Listen to your child, don’t ignore: Communicate with your child if they want to tell you something. Don’t ignore or be uninterested. Build the trust level between both of you.
Look for signs of distress: Take cues from your child’s behaviour, if you notice any change in it.
Look for behavioural patterns: As a parent, though it might be hard, you should also look for cues that your child might show signs of a bully.
Show them with examples: You can do some role-plays at home to educate your child about bullying and explain it to them.
Assure them that it is not their fault: Always care for them and assure them that just because the bullies say mean things doesn’t mean that they are true.
Instill a strong sense of self-esteem: Make them self-confident and self-reliant. Their strong self-confidence is always a disadvantage for bullies.
Teach them to use strong body language: Teach them how to assertively respond to bullies. It is not about fighting physically, but being able to stand up against them. Sometimes, more than words, assertive body language works wonders.
Teach them to intervene: We have already read how bullies back off when someone intervenes. Even if your child is not being bullied, you can teach and encourage them to stand up to bullies to save a friend.
Urge them to be a part of a group: Encourage them to be a part of a group where they will have friends and support them. Being a part of something also helps to gain confidence and mutual support.
Teach them to seek help from adults: Urge them to speak up and involve adults whenever necessary- if they are being bullied or they see someone getting bullied.
Stay aware of how you can respond: As a parent, stay informed about where you can seek help, counselling, or the guidelines regarding bullying. Get in touch with your child’s school and other authorities, if required.
October 3 is marked as World Day of Bullying Prevention worldwide. The aim is to bring attention to your plight, and the plight of others who experienced this incredibly difficult, and dangerous, part of many children’s lives.
In India, recently a 13-year-old, young and talented mind, Anoshka Jolly created an app, 'Kavach’ to empower students to fight bullying. They can anonymously report bullying incidents and get help. She presented her app on the show, Shark Tank, and managed to grab an investment from one of the investors. It is truly a praiseworthy endeavour that will surely help many in need.
In a more recent article this year, several cases of bullying in India were highlighted like how students were being bullied due to skin colour, social status, appearance, and many more. Some made it to the news, whereas most of them went unreported.
"The thing is that before counselling comes conditioning. Counsellors and teachers should work in collaboration and take feedback on the behaviour of kids to check for early signs of bullying”, says a leading counsellor. Schools, experts say, must also emphasize social-emotional learning - a concept that only some institutions are experimenting with. Dedicated campaigns against bullying and one-on-one interaction with parents can help.
Hence, instead of ignoring the issue, interact with your child and all the stakeholders, be aware of how and when to get help and most importantly assure your child that they can fight against it.