ISPCC Anti-Bullying Awareness Corner

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has now firmly established March as its anti-bullying awareness month, of which the blue Shield is the symbol. Throughout March a series of articles will be run in the Mayo Advertiser looking at the topic.

What to do about bullying

It is important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that children have to "get through". The effects can be serious and affect their sense of safety and self-worth. Parents need to know what to look out for if they are worried about bullying, so here are a few pointers:

Potential signs and symptoms of being bullied

Looking distressed or anxious, yet refusing to say what is wrong. Unexplained cuts and bruises. Damage to clothes, books, and school equipment. Doing worse at school than before. Requests for extra money. A reluctance to go to school. Unexplained changes in mood or behaviour. Lower confidence and self-esteem. Complaints of headaches and stomach aches. Problems sleeping. Showing some anxious behaviour following internet usage or phone use.

There could, of course, be a number of reasons for this behaviour. So you need to ask yourself, could there be anything else bothering your child? Are there are changes in your family life, such as a new baby, or separation / divorce?

Although schools have a key role to play, it is hugely important that those closest to your children are able to help and support them.

Here is what you can do

You can help by providing lots of opportunities to talk in an open and honest way.

It is also important to respond in a positive and accepting manner. Let your child

know it is not his or her fault, and that he or she did the right thing by telling you.

Ask your child what he or she thinks should be done. What has already been tried?

What worked and what didn't? Keep them involved in finding a solution. Seek help from your child's teacher or the school guidance counsellor. Most bullying occurs on playgrounds, in lunch-rooms and bathrooms, on school buses, or in unsupervised halls. Ensure that the school enforces its anti-bullying guidelines.

Do not encourage your child to fight back. Instead, suggest that he or she try walking away to avoid the bully, or that they seek help from a teacher, coach, or other adult.

If your child becomes withdrawn, depressed, or reluctant to go to school, or if you see a decline in school performance, additional consultation or intervention may be required. A child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional can help your child and family and the school develop a strategy to deal with the bullying. Seeking professional assistance earlier can lessen the risk of lasting emotional consequences for your child.

ISPCC Mayo is based in the N5 Business Park on the Moneen Road, Castlebar. It is contactable on (094 ) 9025254. For more information see www.ispcc.ie

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