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Dealing With Bullying

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Today our parenting expert Pat Rees has advice on how you can pre-empt if you child is being bullied in school and also how you can go about solving the issue.

Bullying In Ireland
They say 2 in 5 children are bullied at school at some stage. (Source: ISPCC as quoted in 'Practical Parenting - Pat Rees') This is a frightening thought. We shouldn't wait until it's too late to talk to our children about bullying.  Bullying in Ireland is a behavioral problem which affects the lives of thousands of school children. The drastic effects of bullying result in absenteeism, poor schoolwork, depression, personality change, illness and sometimes even suicide.

The Nationwide Study of Bullying in Irish first and second level schools conducted by Trinity College Dublin indicates that some 31% of Primary Students and 16% of Secondary Students have been bullied at some time.From our circa 870,000 school going population, approximately 23% or 200,000 children are at risk of suffering the ill effects of bullying. 

New research by the Irish Association of Suicidology has shown that up to 600 people may be taking their own lives every year. Figures show that suicides among people aged between 15 and 24 account for almost one-in-five suicides nationally. While obviously not all of these teenagers committing suicide are doing so as a result of being bullied, there is a strong link. Often parents are the last to find out that their child is being bullied. Many victims suffer alone. We want to give parents the tools they need to be able to identify the signs of bullying so they can support and help their children.

Maureen Bolger - Teenline
Teenline, a free helpline for teenagers was set up in July 2006 by Maureen Bolger whose sixteen year old son Darren had committed suicide three years prior. Darren had been bullied for a number of months before and had been planning his suicide for three weeks before he died. Teenline is a helpline for those who feel too old to call Childline and too young to call the Samaritans. It is billed as a confidential listening service for everything from exam stress to peer pressure and suicidal feelings.

So what should we as parents do to pre-empt bullying?

. Talk / Listen - Set aside a time to talk but most importantly listen to what is going on at school.

. Feelings - Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, such as jealousy, anger, envy, uselessness. Accept how they feel and be sympathetic - do not just brush them aside.

. Unusual Behaviour - Watch out if your child starts any new or unusual behaviour. They may indeed be trying to tell you something is wrong at school.

. Other Problems- Listen to what is wrong with your child. It may not be bullying, it could be having difficulty with a new maths problem, not coping well with a certain subject, a certain personality conflict with a certain teacher or any number of things. Listen and find out what it is.

What are the signs of bullying to look out for?

A child may indicate there is a problem by displaying any of these possible signs: -

. Suddenly reluctant or unwilling to go to school. Refusing to say why/ what's wrong.

. Changing their school route. Being frightened to walk to or from school. Or changing their school route.

. Difficulty going to sleep or having nightmares.

. Losing appetite or coming home starving because their lunch has been stolen.

. Becoming more clingy. Confidence generally failing.

. Crying frequently or more easily, being distressed or becoming withdrawn, even starting to stammer.

What should a parent do if they discover their child is being bullied?

There are a number of things you can do if your child displays any of the above signs or just tells you she is being bullied. Of course you need to take the bullying seriously and take positive action. You need to offer your child support and reassurance and give your child a chance to vent their feelings about what has happened. But what else can you do?

. Talk to the schoolteacher in charge of the children where the bullying has occurred. Ask what is being done to prevent bullying in school? Do they teach about bullying? Is there a set programme or measures taken if bullying occurs? (93% of schools have a policy on bullying) Try to discover if your child is the only one who is being bullied and enlist the help of any other parents involved.

. Help your child with practical strategies to deal with any bullies like shouting, 'No!' before walking away with confidence and head held high. Encourage them to laugh and ignore the bully's comments.

. Role Play certain situations, see how they react and think of ways in which they could react which would help deal with the situation. Role playing would depend on the age of the child, try and make it fun not threatening. Work it through - what do the bullies usually do and what should your child's reaction be?
- Role play 1: What would you do if someone teased you? Ensure that your child's reaction is ignoring the other child. 
- Role play 2: If some one was hassling your child? Just say no strongly, leave me alone and walk away. The thing is not to get in involved. Bullies like inter reaction. Do not give it to them.

. Keep a written record of the events that take place.

. Encourage your child to take up another hobby to take her mind off the bullying.

For More Information
Contact: 1800 833 634


The National Association for the Victims of Bullying - 057 933 1590

Sticks and Stones. Anti-bullying Drama Workshops for schools


Practical Parenting - An Irish Survival Guide by Pat Rees is available in book stores nationwide priced at €13.00