Grade-Schoolers Their Lives Expand : Why does not She Like School? Phobia, loneliness, bullying (part 2) - Bullying A remarkably common problem

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Bullying A remarkably common problem

Bullying is often a factor behind a child’s reluctance to go to school or even to leave home. Unfortunately, with so much digital connectivity, children are not even safe from bullying in their own homes now that mobile phones and the internet provide more insidious means for intimidation and persecution.

Q: Who does it happen to?
A: Bullying is remarkably common in primary school, and most children will have some experience of it, even if it’s only witnessing it happen to someone else. It is a major factor in school refusal, with all its associated educational and emotional damage, and also leads to loneliness, loss of confidence, low self-esteem, anger, and a sense of helplessness that is strongly related to the development of depression. Sometimes adults are confused about the difference between an disagreement or distancing between friends and the victimization that is characteristic of bullying. Bullying behavior can include unpleasant teasing, threats, spreading rumors, and socially isolating someone. It can also be physical aggression, such as pushing and shoving in crowds. It quite frequently involves extortion of personal property under threat, and can include taunting about disability, race, or gender.

Bullies are often feared and admired by other children. They are perceived as strong and they get satisfaction from hurting and humiliating their victims. However, bullies are often victims already, and frequently learn to bully by being bullied themselves. No child is immune from being a victim, but certain factors increase and decrease their risk. Having friends protects children from bullying. Being alone at playtimes at school, being shy and anxious, and less popular all seem to set a child up as a bullying risk. Surveys show that children rarely tell anyone that they are being bullied. Parents should therefore look out for unexplained injuries, ripped or damaged clothing, loss or damage of personal property and money, mood swings, and sleep problems.

Helping your child

The best way your child can protect himself against a bully is to always tell an adult when he is being threatened, to hold his head high and act as if he is confident, and to stay close to friends, and play in a group rather than alone. Please advise your child not to fight back when bullying happens. If he attempts to fight back, he is likely to be overpowered and his reaction will give even more satisfaction to the bully.

Learning to be strong inside can be hard for many children, and you can help with this. You can build your child’s emotional strength so he is less likely to be bullied or, if bullying happens, the effects will be less. Remind your child of his good points so his self-esteem is raised. Any activity that gives your child a taste of success and the opportunity to have a few friends such as swimming classes or Cub Scouts and Brownies or Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are all good ideas. Martial arts classes may be a good idea for confidence boosting—although the idea is not to teach him how to fight, just how to feel confident, square his shoulders, think positive thoughts, and walk tall.

If the problem continues, you could enlist the help of your child’s school. The class teacher, school counselor, or other members of staff can help you work out ways to support your child. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy that tells you what the school will do to tackle this issue. This should spell out how the school will work with victims and how they will help the bully to act with kindness. Really effective policies are those that pupils, parents, and teachers have developed together. As well as building anti-bullying subject matter into the curriculum, schools can help by investing in playground improvements, establishing buddy systems, and possibly even offering formal assertiveness training.

Loneliness and making friends

Being lonely at school is a miserable experience. Being able to make and keep friends is an important protective factor against school phobia and bullying. Being part of a circle of friends makes it much less likely that your child will be bullied. In fact having a close friend in these middle-childhood years is important for good psychological health in adulthood. Friendships are about liking the same activities, helping each other out, being able to take turns in a game, and learning how to share and compromise with ease. Friends like and admire each other and share a sense of loyalty and commitment. They do argue, but they are better able to make up than children who are not special friends.

If your child has the skills to make friends, she is more likely to appear confident, making her happier about herself and about being at school—and less of a target for bullies. These are skills that can be learned through play with cousins or neighbors; friendships are often built on proximity. They are also about sharing similar interests, so you can encourage your child to join a class, club, or a sports team. Encouraging your child to invite friends over to play can also build friendships. If she is struggling to make friends, practice with her—act out together how she might approach others and ask to join in their games. Also enlist the help of her teacher to have your child paired with others in the class to form bonds by working together.

Left out

Social exclusion, or being left out of activities, is a fairly common form of bullying.

Staying strong

If your child is being bullied, martial arts can give her a sense of confidence.

In the team

Clubs and activities that take place away from school may offer your child a new set of friends.

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