Monday, 25 August 2014

Back to school - back to bullying?

Many children do not look forward to returning to school; not because it's the end of the free days of the summer holiday but for a more sinister reason. School is where the bullying often happens. Children seldom talk about it to their parents, so mum and dad need to be vigilant for the tell-tale signs of bullying, some of which are listed here:

  • Unexplained physical marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes
  • Unexplained loss of toys, school supplies, clothing, lunches, or money
  • Clothes, toys, books, electronic items are damaged or missing or child reports mysteriously “losing” possessions
  • Doesn't want to go to school or other activities with peers
  • Doesn't want to use the school bus
  • Afraid to be left alone: wants you there at end of school time, suddenly "clingy"
  • Suddenly sullen, withdrawn, evasive; remarks about feeling lonely
  • Marked change in typical behaviour or personality
  • Persistently appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed with no apparent cause
  • Physical complaints; headaches, stomach aches, frequent visits the school nurse’s office
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, cries self to sleep, bed-wetting
  • Change in eating habits
  • Begins bullying siblings or younger children. (Bullied children can sometimes exchange roles and become the bully.)
  • Waits to get home to use the bathroom. (School bathrooms, because they are often not adult-supervised, can be hotspots for bullying).
  • Suddenly has fewer friends or doesn't want to be with the “regular group”
  • Very hungry when he/she comes home. (Bullies can use extortion stealing a victim’s lunch money or lunch.)
  • Sudden and significant drop in school marks/grades. (Bullying can cause a child to have difficulty focusing and concentrating.)
  • Blames self for problems; feels “not good enough”
  • Talks about feeling helpless or about suicide; runs away.

What can I do as a parent? 

Find out what is going on. Ask direct questions. Be supportive and caring. Don't threaten to confront the bully on behalf of the child - but give them the tools to stand up for themselves. Most people have suffered bullying at some time in their lives; so give the child an example from your own life and show them how you overcame it. Remember, to a small child in particular, adults are all-powerful!

Remember that bullying can happen on-line too. Social networks are frequently used by bullies to humiliate and belittle their victims. If you suspect this is happening, do a web search for your child's name, and discover what is being posted about them.

Why me?

Some children seem to be natural targets for bullies while others do not. The bully seems to have a natural instinct for picking his or her victim - so what are the signals being unwittingly transmitted by the child that invite the bully? Clearly it is not a conscious choice to be bullied; the signals are being delivered sub-consciously by the child's body language, expression, tone of voice and much more. It is possible to learn to change these, and it is easier than you think!

Can a therapist help?

Hypnosis and NLP can give your child a set of powerful techniques to feel more self confident and assertive, and generally better about themselves. Bullies invariably have self esteem issues of their own, but their approach is to make someone feel worse than they do in order to feel good about themselves. It is the strategy of a coward. Faced with a seemingly confident child, they quickly move on and find an easier mark.

All children have great imaginations, and NLP shows them how to use this to begin to engage in positive thoughts and beliefs about themselves, rather than using the imagination in a negative way. This generates a subtly different body language pattern, and the bully gets a different non-verbal message from the child.

Remember, anyone who is good at worrying has a powerful imagination! Let's get to work on using it to feel better, instead of feeling bad!

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