Beat the Bullies

By Mary Fowlie, Head of Counselling at Fegans

Going back to school, a new pencil case and seeing old classmates is a thrill for many children, for others who have suffered bullying at school, September can be a daunting time. 70% of all young people1 have experienced bullying, which can take place at school, travelling to and from school, online and at home where it can be perpetrated by siblings. Fortunately, for most children bullying is transitory with short term impact, but for a few the impact can be devastating, demoralising and cause psychological damage.

Bullying can be carefully disguised leaving young people unsure whether they are being bullied as falling out with friends, teasing and name-calling is so prevalent. Bullying is when one person intentionally and persistently tries to upset, hurt or intimidate another, either physically or emotionally. Bullying can have a lasting effect, leaving the young person with feelings of loneliness, fear, anger and anxiety and may lead to depression and self-harm.

Some children are reluctant to tell their parents for fear of the bullying escalating or not being believed. Young people sometimes believe they deserve to be bullied, so when a child does tell their parent, it may have taken great courage so it is important they are listened to and not judged. It can be emotionally challenging when parents learn that their child is being bullied and feelings of anger may overwhelm as they realise they have been unable to protect their child.

As some young people are disinclined to tell their parents about being bullied, it is helpful to recognise the signs: a change in mood or behaviour; school refusal; an unexplained decline in school grades; unexplained injuries; coming home with missing possessions or money; upset after using the internet or mobile; difficulty sleeping; change in eating habits; social withdrawal or self-harm.

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

Some children 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 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 childhood bullying 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 bullying. Our compassionate and qualified counsellors work with children and young people to re-build their confidence and self-esteem; promote healthy relationships and help them to heal emotionally.

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 child to understand their own behaviour and the root of their unhappiness. For more information on counselling at Fegans click here.

The top signs for spotting bullying are; 

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or broken possessions;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • A loss of friends;
  • Withdrawing from social situations;
  • Change in attitude or behaviour;
  • Difficulty sleeping or bed wetting;
  • Truanting or feigning sickness;
  • Declining grades and a lack of interest in school;
  • Self-destructive behaviour;
  • Refusal to talk about what is wrong. 

With regards to tips for dealing with bullies, here is some more information you could adopt;

  • Try not to provide an aggressive or emotional reaction to a bully – this is what they want
  • Say no to the bully clearly and loud enough to be heard
  • If a bully is asking you to do something you don’t want to do say no repeatedly until they get the message
  • Use body language to appear confident even when you are not (head held high, straight back, hold eye contact, not fidgeting)
  • Practise assertive body language and voice skills through role play with a trusted person and mirror work
  • If bullying is happening online resist the temptation to respond unless it is to simply type ‘stop’. Report and block the bully and keep social media profiles set to private.
  • Stay safe.  If you feel in danger yell, run and find and tell an adult immediately