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What To Do If Your Child is Being Bullied in Primary School

Blog - 16 February 2022

What To Do If Your Child is Being Bullied in Primary School

This article has been written by Lucinda Garbutt-Young, on behalf of Art of Smart.

We all know that primary school is a time when children are learning a lot — they are forming connections and making patterns in the world around them. However, this can, unfortunately, be a time when bullying is prevalent, and you may be wondering, ‘What can I do if my child is being bullied?’

As a parent, you never want to see your child bullied (or being the bully). It can be hard to know what to do in these situations.

So, we are bringing you parental advice from a professional — we will walk you through how to care for your child if they are being bullied, including the best steps to take. You can follow this advice in a sequential order to help your child through issues of bullying.

Keep reading to learn more!

Meet Ana

Ana Kaluder is a Youth and Family Counsellor at KYDS, where she has worked for two years. Within this organisation, she regularly works with children and parents to tackle complex issues. She knows how to educate families so they can care for their children best.

Ana has also worked as a psychologist in Europe. Overall, she’s the perfect person to answer our questions on how to tackle primary school bullying!

With that, let’s get into the tips!

Step 1: Manage Your Feelings as the Parent

Ana’s first tip is one of the most important ones. If you know or suspect that your child is being bullied, it’s very important to remain calm and regulate your own emotions.

“It’s important for the parents to be able to manage their feelings, because often parents get really upset or angry, especially if it’s severe bullying. If you react like that next to your child who tells you they’re [experiencing] bullying, it has a countereffect,” Ana explained.

There’s two reasons why getting visibly upset in front of your child won’t be helpful. First, children who are being bullied often feel that the negative emotion is being directed to them.

“Most children are scared to tell parents and teachers because of how they are going to react. If they [the parents] act angry, they usually think they are angry at them [the children],” Ana said.

This article is targeted towards when you are angry with your own child, but the effects remain even if you are angry about a different situation in front of them.

Anger about bullying also creates a cyclical approach — if you are mad at your child’s bully, the perpetrator is more likely to become nastier to your child. Even if you have no intention of confronting the bully, your child may become very concerned by your behaviour.

Of course, it is completely understandable to be upset or angry if your child is going through something troubling — you want what is best for them and want to protect them. You aren’t doing anything wrong by having these emotions — it’s just important you don’t express them in front of your child.

Some things you can do to regulate emotions are:

  1. Take a couple of minutes before responding to your child
  2. Speak with your partner or a trusted adult
  3. Call a good friend
  4. See a counsellor if you feel you need the support

“Try and manage your feelings and present yourself from the role of someone who is interested in what happened. Try to be calm and ask a lot of questions to get more information,” Ana concluded.

Step 2: Acknowledge Your Child’s Bravery and Gather the Right Information

The next important thing for parents to do is talk to their child directly and find out what is happening. It’s vital that your child knows you’re on their side.

“Getting the information and talking about it is the next step. Before starting to gather information, it’s very important for parents to reassure their children that it’s not their fault and to acknowledge their bravery for stepping out and saying something,” said Ana.

It’s often very challenging for young victims of bullying to say anything to the adults around them. It can seem like a shameful concept, or like acknowledging the issue will make the bully react harshly. As such, there’s a few ways that you can gather information about bullying effectively.

How should you gather the right information?

Anna explained the importance of avoiding questions like:

  • Why?
  • Why didn’t you tell me before?
  • Why did you react in that way?

Instead, parents should ask open-ended questions that do not sound accusatory. “Things like, ‘Can you tell me more of what happened?’ will be [useful],” Ana said.

Asking your child simple, open-ended questions will encourage them to talk freely and offer you increased information. This allows you as the parents to gather evidence more effectively and form a true case around your child’s bullying experience, rather than working off limited information.

But what about if your child hasn’t admitted the bullying is occurring?

Ana explained that this can be common. If your child seems upset after certain events or specific people, you may start to suspect bullying is occurring.

Here are some gentle questions you can ask to find out more from a child who has not told you they’re being bullied:

  • How did you feel today at school?
  • How are you getting along in class?
  • Who do you like spending time with?
  • Is there anyone you don’t like spending time with?
  • How do you feel at school?
  • How do you feel in your peer group?
  • Is there anything you don’t feel good about at school?

Ana also noted that it’s important to avoid really direct questions about bullying, as they are unlikely to evoke an answer.

Step 3: Discuss With Your Child How You Can Help Them

Once it is clear that bullying is occurring, it’s time to start working out solutions.

Ana said that it’s very important to include your child in this step. After all, the situation directly involves them. Having a hand in decision-making will also help your child feel listened to and valued.

“Talk with your child to discuss what will be the best way [to help them], and if they have any suggestions of what would be the best way to solve the situation,” Ana shared.

You’d want to ask something like, ‘How can we deal with this?’

By giving your child a stake in the issue, they know that you see them. You acknowledge the bullying and care about your child’s well-being. Ultimately, it’s about being on the same team as your child and tackling the issue together.

However, making a decision with your child is a delicate balance. Primary school children do not usually have the critical or social skills to make well-rounded decisions by themselves about complex issues like bullying. It’s important that you guide them and choose effective next steps.

The message here is to listen and act on what your child has suggested (for example, do not approach the bully directly if your child is scared of them as it will worsen the situation). In conjunction, make decisions as a parent that will help solve the issue of bullying.

Step 4: Approach the School

If bullying is occurring at school, it’s important that you engage with appropriate professionals to tackle the issue. Presenting a clear body of evidence to the classroom teacher, deputy or principal can help your child.

Like when your child first brings the issue up to you, it’s important to remain calm. “Parents often are upset and angry and they go to school furious… It’s important instead of being aggressive to be more constructive, to manage your emotion,” Ana explained.

If you have spoken to your child calmly and with open-ended questions, you will hopefully have enough information to present a good body of evidence to the school for what is happening. You and the teachers will be able to work together to provide solutions.

“Present all the information you found from the child and ask the school what the next step [is]. [Find out] what you can do as a parent and what they can do as the teacher or principal.”

Almost all teachers are well-trained in creating anti-bullying strategies and have supervisors they can approach for help. On a broader level, most states have anti-bullying programs that are formally in place at each school.

So, while we don’t know exactly what the school will suggest, we do know that most schools will handle the situation to the best of their ability. Your child may be referred to the school counsellor, checked in on by the teacher, or the bully may be punished.

Here are some tips you can follow in talking to the school:

  • Remain calm
  • Lay out a clear body of evidence
  • Speak to the teacher or principal
  • Ask about next steps
  • Be patient

Step 5: Find Additional Support

If you feel that you or your child need more assistance in dealing with bullying, that is completely okay! This is a complex issue and one that most parents can’t solve on their own.

You can start by looking at resources or helplines online. These include:

Kids HelplineReachOutHeadspaceArt of Smart

Sometimes, longer-term counselling might be useful. Bullying can have some long-term effects and it’s very beneficial to seek professional help with these.

The first place that is great to enquire about is with the school counsellor. You can also find psychologists in your local area. Headspace and KYDS (where Ana works) offer support too!

Places like this may suggest practical tactics for yourself and your child, which can help to recover from the impact of bullying.

Through Ana’s expertise and this step-by-step article, you should now feel more equipped to deal with bullying. Remember that bullying is a complex topic that may take some time to resolve.

Keep working with your child and those around you to slowly make progress! There is nothing wrong with asking for help.

Art of Smart Education is an award-winning provider of holistic tutoring and mentoring for students in years K-12. We help primary school students develop a love for learning and grow confident so they can smoothly transition into high school. Over the last decade, we’ve supported over 8,000 students and have over one million young Australians, parents, and teachers access our guides, resources and videos to navigate the K-6 journey.

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