Hands up who has experienced bullying?
In your friendship group maybe?
It is scary how common it is and how it can impact your life immediately and then ripples out to later on.
When I was a child at primary school and then as teenager, I was terribly bullied. I struggled with school every day because it was unbearable trying to deal with it every day. I never knew what the girls I went to school with would do next and did everything I could to keep my head down and escape it when I could.
It sounds sad, geeky even, but I knew that to escape the situation forever was to get to uni, study something I loved and find other people like me – so even at the age of 10 and doing the 11+, I had escape as my goal. I worked hard and did get out – uni was the making of me – the freedom there allowed me to relax and become the person I wanted, and needed, to be.
And, I thought that bullying was behind me – so it was a shock to land a job years later, that seemed amazing, but quickly became the worst time of my life. My boss was a bully – everyday was a nightmare and I desperately thought up escape routes or tactics for coping, until one day I just couldn’t anymore. The Mr was an amazing support through all of this and gave me the space, time and kindness I needed to walk away. That boss nearly destroyed my confidence in everything and I nearly lost my passion for marketing and writing – so thank goodness my next step took me back into a kinder and more compassionate work environment – and I found my love for what I do again.
So why is this on my mind now? Perhaps because I am freelance I now really enjoying what I do and how I work things around my family? Maybe it is seeing Wriggler start school and knowing he is going to face his own challenges, and that wanting to make sure he was in a good environment was a factor in choosing the school we did. Maybe is seeing how unsupportive some mums are when Fidget is being more ‘rambunctious’ than usual, that it can veer to feeling excluded or that my child is being judged.
Either way, I got to thinking ‘How would I handle bullying if it were my children struggling?’.
According to Bullying UK, around half of all children will come across bullying in one form or another and the most powerful thing we can do as parents is listen to them – don’t get upset or angry with them and don’t make it about ourselves. This is their experience and they need the support. Once they have confided, take the time to discuss with them what they might like to do and what outcome they hope for – so that they can be given them tools to manage situations and regain their confidence. It might be tempting to confront the other parents or teachers, but this can actually escalate the bullying.
Thankfully most schools are better at managing these situations now than they were when I was at school, so a quiet word with the teacher to understand any observations they might have or any solutions that they can offer will be more productive than any emotional reaction.
And it is hard for us parents as these experiences remind us of our childhoods, and we want better for our children. So, by us demonstrating calmness, compassion, empathy and listening skills to find a solution hopefully this will empower our children to follow the example and do the same.
If you, or your children, need more support or information check out the support network Bullying UK. They have great articles explaining about the different types of bullying and what parents can do to help and support their children.