This is a serious situation that needs to be handled quickly and sensitively. Sam Maclaren, a modern languages teacher at Dubai College, says, ‘Sometimes, when it’s not physical, children don’t even realise that what’s happening to them constitutes bullying. If your child has told you about what’s happening, you’ve won half the battle. You should inform your child’s teacher straight away – then they can do their best to nip it in the bud.’
She adds, ‘How the teacher would deal with the situation depends on the child. We would certainly assure them that the matter would be treated as confidential. In our school, and I’m sure this applies to most others, we have a zero tolerance policy on bullying. It’s simply not acceptable.’ But aren’t a lot of kids scared of telling anyone in case it makes matters worse? ‘As a parent, you need to tell them that if they keep quiet, it will only keep happening,’ says Sam. ‘In cases of verbal bullying, the teachers in our school wouldn’t go straight to the bully and confront them – we’d inform our colleagues and, as a team, observe the situation, so that we could get a more informed understanding of what was going on. Of course, if it was physical bullying, things would be different as that is potentially dangerous. Until you know what the situation is, you don’t know how you can help. Sometimes, just having a group discussion can resolve things; other times it takes individual talks. Every situation is unique.’
For older children though, simply informing the teacher and their parents may not always be enough. ‘Bullies seek out vulnerable classmates because they enjoy getting a reaction from the teasing process,’ says Clement Milne, a UAE-based parent educator. ‘Unfortunately, sometimes informing the right adults won’t always stop the bullying, and when this happens, we have to focus on the victim’s behaviour to minimise the likelihood of bullying re-occurring. He advises parents talk to their children, and even role play through certain scenarios with their child, so that if they have to stand up the bully, they can do so with confidence.
He adds that parents can help their children avoid this very distressing situation, by helping them to be more socially aware. ‘All too often, bullying doesn’t get resolved, and this is often because the bully’s parents can’t modify their child’s behaviour to make it more socially acceptable. When this happens, the victim can often end up having to change schools to stop the problem. This then leads to them having even lower self esteem than before. It’s a vicious downwards spiral, because they then become even more vulnerable to bullying types.’
For more help and advice with bullying issues, visit; www.bullying.org; www.stopbullying.gov; www.stopbullyingnow.com; www.bullying.co.uk
Advice for older children suffering from bullying:
• Avoid getting too emotional. Don’t let the bully know how angry and scared you are. Tell your teacher or a school principal about the bullying. Make sure they know exactly what is happening, and when.
• Try to stay with your group of friends at break time. Many bullies will only pick on people when they are alone. There is safety in numbers.
• Don’t be afraid to tell the bully to stop. More often than not, bullies are just full of hot air. You would be surprised how often that works.
• Don’t let bullying get you down. Do something fun and surround yourself with nice people who want to be your friend. Find people at school who are interested in the same things as you and stick with them. Select a club or extracurricular activity to join. Once you start to focus on the nice people, bullies will seem like less of a problem and you will have more fun at school.