Claire Baker – 11th January 2016

Bullying is a problem for many children and young people and can have a significant effect on their emotional and mental wellbeing.  As many as 70% of all young people (1) have experienced some form of bullying and it can take place not only at school, but also travelling to and from school, online or through a mobile phone and at home where it can be perpetrated by siblings.  Fortunately, for most of those bullied it is transitory and the impact not long term, but for a few the impact can be devastating, demoralizing and cause psychological damage.

Bullying can be carefully disguised and often young people are not sure whether they are being bullied as they can and do fall out with friends, tease and name-call.  Bullying is when one person intentionally and persistently tries to upset, hurt or intimidate another, either physically or emotionally.  Bullying is not gender specific or limited to any one social background and has nothing to do with intellect or ability.  It can however have a lasting effect on the lives of those bullied, leaving the young person with feelings of loneliness, fear, anger and anxiety and may lead to depression and self-harm.

Some young people are reluctant to tell their parents they are being bullied for fear of it escalating or not being believed, or being told it can’t be that bad and to just stay out of the bully’s way.  Young people often believe that somehow they deserve to be bullied, so when a child does tell their parent, it may have taken great courage for them to open up and they will want to be listened to and not judged.  Learning their child is being bullied can be an emotionally challenging time for parents and feelings of anger and fear may overwhelm as they realise they have been unable to protect their child.

As some young people are disinclined to open up to their parents about being bullied, it is helpful for parents to recognise the signs and, if concerned, to gently and sensitively question their children.  The signs to look out for are: a change in mood or behaviour; school refusal; an unexplained decline in school grades; unexplained scratches, cuts or bruises; coming home with missing possessions or ‘loss’ of money; upset after using the internet or mobile phone; difficulty sleeping; change in eating habits; social withdrawal, self-harm or signs of anxiety.

Once children have opened up to being bullied, parents need to reassure them that they have done the right thing to confide, that they are believed and that the parent will work with the school to try and stop the bullying and to keep them safe.

Some children and young people are able to feel better once an adult has been told, knowing that action will be taken to stop the perpetrator; they are able to move on despite feelings of upset and anger.  Others can be so adversely affected by bullying that they need counselling to help them work through their feelings.  They may refuse to attend school and their school work and friendships suffer.  If left unsupported, the impact of being bullied as a young person can lead to mental health problems such as depression, low self-esteem and anger in adulthood1.

Fegans is a charity based in Tunbridge Wells which offers counselling to support children and young people suffering emotional distress and challenging behaviours, including those affected by the distress and misery of bullying. When our compassionate, experienced and qualified counsellors see children and young people affected by the impact of bullying, they work with them to re-build their confidence and self-esteem; encourage an understanding of healthy relationships and help them to heal emotionally by listening to their story.

Fegans will also work with the child or young person who is the bully.  It can be a shock to parents who finds out their child is a bully and may feel challenged by their behaviour.  Counselling could help the young person to understand their own behaviour and the root of their unhappiness.

To find out more about the services Fegans offer or ways you can support this valuable local charity browse our website.

Reference: (1) YoungMinds at youngminds.org.uk

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