This week is National Anti-Bullying Week.
Many people have experienced some form of bullying in their life and know exactly how destructive it can be. If you were bullied as a child at school, home, or elsewhere, the chances are just thinking about it brings back painful memories that can in a matter of moments have you transported back to your younger self; scared, lonely and vulnerable.
We know the extreme pain and seclusion of being picked on at school, from teasing and name-calling to acute violence, theft and social isolation. We know what children can be like – we were them once – and part and parcel of packing your child off to school each day is the fear of what could go on, the things you may not know are happening and those you may lack the power to do anything about.
Bullying usually has underlying roots – a child bullies another often as an outlet for their own personal problems, in an attempt to boost their low self-opinion or as a way of dealing with difficult emotions such as jealousy and anger. Those children at school who are giving out the abuse are perhaps also being bullied themselves in some form, maybe by a family member in their own home, leading to them feeling as if they have no safe place to go to.
These days with the use of mobile phones and social media sites, children are now being harassed slyly via text message and e-mail, with video recordings and images passed around or posted online. This can go on 24 hours a day, any day of the week and cyber bullying can also bring with it a new level of anonymity – it is impossible to confront a bully if you don’t know who they are.
Feelings of isolation and humiliation can lead to a child not wanting or knowing how to talk about their problem, not even to their parents. A bullied child can become withdrawn, depressed or angry, can suddenly have sleeping difficulties, start wetting the bed, or show a change in eating habits. It is not unusual for them to in turn start bullying siblings, younger children or family pets, to miss classes or avoid school altogether.
The Bullying and Truancy report (2006) found that 20,000 children truant every day as a result of bullying, leading to 31 million school days being lost per year.
Some children have suffered so badly they have chosen to take their own lives – tragically, it is estimated that about 20 young people commit suicide because of it every year.
There is help and support available for the parents of children who are being bullied, but what if you found out your child was the one doing the bullying? I think there needs to be more advice available for parents who are dealing with this also emotionally sensitive situation.
Visit antibullyingweek.co.uk. Childline offers support to children who can e-mail, message or speak for free anytime with a counsellor on 0800 1111.