SCHOOL BULLYING: Everything you need to know
IF YOUR child is being bullied it's hard to know what you can do to best support them as a parent.
If their school journey has just started, the fear of bullying and its impact on their first impression of school can be very concerning.
Bullying isn't just teasing, it involves unrelenting and deliberate teasing to hurt somebody's feelings, leaving the target out of games and group activities and physically attacking the target.
Unfortunately, bullying is not rare or isolated. It happens frequently among school children and is an exhausting experience that can cause significant damage to a child.
How do you know if your child is being bullied?
There can be some clear physical signs that your child is being bullied, whether it's bruises and scratches or bedwetting and sleep disruption.
There can also be some clear emotional clues such as distress and anxiety, lots of tears for no apparent reason, sudden secretiveness and changes in behaviour, angry outbursts and general unhappiness.
Another sign is your child suddenly not wanting to go to school. Ask your teacher about their behaviour. Are they afraid to answer questions in class? Not interacting with other children? Maybe their homework is suddenly getting shabby?
What can you do to support your child?
Firstly, never leave the situation to your child to sort out themselves.
Some people believe it is just part of growing up and their child needs to learn resilience, but in reality the damage caused by bullying can be serious.
It is important to step in early and stop the bullying before it becomes a regular occurrence and causes long term harm to your child's emotional well-being.
As mentioned in previous columns about school, it's important to talk to your child regularly about their day. This is an essential first step to discovering bullying.
Ask direct questions that can't be answers without giving you detail. Such as "Who did you play with and what type of games did you play?"
This enables your child to reveal who their friends are or whether they're isolated. You can follow up about how they're getting along and whether they are being bullied.
If your child does open up, it's important to stay calm and listen to them. When they finish describing what has happened try to summarise what they said so they know you've listened.
Once they have told you, try to talk to them about why it has happened, reinforce that telling you is the right thing to do and offer a way to help them deal with it. Be unqualified with your support!
There is a lot more you can do, next week we will look at other steps you can take after chatting to your child.
If you need support or advice, you can always make contact with Lifeline on 13 11 44 or locally, the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service child health team at Margaret Rose Centre, 312 Bourbong St, Bundaberg; The Village 34 Torquay Rd, Hervey Bay or the Bauer-Wiles Building 167 Neptune Street, Maryborough.
Alternatively, call your local WBHHS child health team on:
Bundaberg - 4150 2700
Fraser Coast - 4122 8733
Childers - 4192 1133
Gin Gin - 4157 2222
Gayndah - 4161 3571
Mundubbera - 4161 3571
Monto - 4166 9300
Biggenden - 4127 6400
Eidsvold - 4165 7100