This week is dedicated to Bullying awareness. As you may know, or maybe have even experienced yourself, bullying can be cruel and damaging to children.
By law all UK state schools must have a behavioural policy that includes bullying prevention and it is very important as parents to be aware of those policies and to make sure your child feels safe to tell you if there is something wrong.
In Finland a method has been evolved and tested that proves very effective in tackling bullying in schools called the KiVa programme http://www.kivaprogram.net/
Children can experience bullying in many different forms and most parents report noticing some change of behaviour such as lack of interest in going to school or social isolation.
I worked for some years as a psychologist in a school where children from 11 to 14 years old were encouraged to talk and share about peer relationships. I would carry out sessions with them and bullying was a constant subject. What they told me is very similar to what the KiVa programme says.
Here are 6 things that I found from my students, of which I believe all parents and teachers should be aware:
- Bullying will essentially take place if there is a bully, a victim and someone else that plays a silent role. This person is the bystander, a spectator. They may laugh, may be fearful themselves, may experience anxiety, partner up with the victim or even join the bully.
- What I learnt from my students was that the power of the bully is in the hands of the bystander.
- When we talk to children, we learn that when they feel safe, they will ask for help. It is up to the adults around them to provide a safe environment for them to grow and develop.
- When carrying out a session with 11 year olds who were actively engaged in developing the school’s policy for bullying prevention, I learnt that is that “The right thing to do” is a key point.
Most adults assume that children know what is right and what to do. But what I discovered is that sometimes they feel very confused, especially if they are bystanders to bullying.
- Some children reported a great amount of anxiety and fearfulness of also becoming victims, whilst others had the urge to do something about it, yet were not sure how to do so.
- Whilst the victims of bullying mostly feel trapped and unable to react, the bystanders have a strategic position and if they are empowered and feel safe in “doing the right thing”, they become great agents in bullying prevention.
There is great benefit by encouraging children to talk about what they feel and help them understand and take ownership of the policies around them, in school of course but also at home.
And in extreme cases, some forms of bullying are illegal in the UK and should be reported to the school as well as to the police including violence or assault, hate crimes, theft and repeated harassment or intimidation such as name calling, threats and abusive phone calls, emails or text message.
It is important for parents to be informed about bullying and to communicate with schools and with their children, so they pick up early on any signs of bullying and help create a safer environment for their children.
Many schools work in partnership with organisations that provide support such as:
Juliana Lax is a qualified psychologist and is an international expert on bullying, having set up and run an anti-bullying charity in Brazil, part of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International.