Sarah Elliott is Haemophilia Outreach Worker – Northern, Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand
This article is reprinted with permission from Bloodline, the magazine of Haemophilia Foundation New Zealand (www.haemophilia.org.nz), September 2014
Both children with and without haemophilia get bullied. Although children with special health needs such as a bleeding disorder can be at an increased risk of being bullied, haemophilia may not be the cause of bullying (in most instances it is NOT about haemophilia). Why a person is being bullied is hard to determine or change, but there are many things we can do to try to deal appropriately with the bullying.
Bullying is unacceptable and can really hurt people and have lasting effects. Violent behaviour by a bully can result in bleeds for children with bleeding disorders like haemophilia, so it can be more dangerous than for most kids.
Parents and other adults in a child’s life should take bullying seriously. This means knowing and understanding what bullying is and applying strategies to help your child deal with bullies.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying behaviour is when someone, or a group of people, says or does something that hurts, embarrasses, frightens or upsets somebody else on purpose. It is aggressive and intentional behaviour that involves an imbalance of power. Being bullied can leave someone feeling sad, lonely, scared, and worried. Most often, bullying is repeated over time and sometimes has been around for many years.
In contrast, some behaviour such as light teasing or saying something mean in the heat of the moment is not bullying as it is not done over time or intentionally causing harm.
Although they can still be hurtful, these types of behaviours take place for all children in testing friendship and social boundaries.
Many people do not realise that bullying comes in different forms that include:
- Physical – hurting a person’s body or possessions
- Verbal – saying or writing mean things; threatening
- Social -hurting someone’s reputation, embarrassing someone, not talking to them, leaving them out of joint activities or spreading rumours
- Cyber – using social media or texts to target and cause harm to others.
With teens, bullying can also have a sexual content to it and may involve sexual harassment.
SIGNS A CHILD IS BEING BULLIED
Bullying can make children and young people feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It can make them feel unsafe and think that something must be wrong with them. They can lose confidence and may not want to go to school or other social activities.
It is hard to know if a child is being bullied, but there are some signs to look out for.
Has your child been:
- Coming home with cuts and bruises or torn clothes?
- Taking a different way to school or home?
- ‘Losing’ possessions, money or food?
- Moody and easily upset, quiet and withdrawn?
- Aggressive with brothers and sisters?
- Having trouble with school work?
STRATEGIES TO DEAL WITH BULLYING OR BULLIES
A workshop on bullying was held at a recent HFNZ regional camp. Together members of HFNZ’s Northern branch discussed strategies to deal with bullying or bullies, both as recommended by professionals and from their own experience. The following is their list of approaches and strategies. Please note: not all of the listed strategies will work for your child. All children are different so something might work for one and not another – it is about seeing what is the best fit for you and your family.
- Keep communication open – allow your child to express their feelings and emotions. They may like to write in a journal or express their feelings in other ways. As a parent just listening and understanding can help. If your child is telling you about their feelings it is a BIG first step.
- If you think your child is dealing with bullying but they do not talk about it then try to engage them gently – let them know that you see something is upsetting them and that when they are ready to talk about it you are ready to listen, you are there for them. Or let them know if they want to talk to someone else they could talk to another relative, teacher, and mentor or call a helpline (details below).
- If your child doesn’t engage easily with you try having a chat at meal times or before bed and ask about specific things at school and in the class (not just ‘how was your day’) or just sit with your child and don’t say anything and they may open up.
- A safety plan is great – ‘who to tell if…’, ‘what to do if… ‘. Go over this plan many times with your child so they feel confident of how to interact with a bully, or what to do when bullying arises.
- Encourage them to say ‘stop it’ or ‘leave me alone’. Encourage them to call out the behaviour ‘don’t hit me’ or ‘stop throwing things at me’ – get them to practise what they might say to the bully.
- Encourage them to act tall and strong: hold their head up, make eye contact, use a calm and firm voice, and give a poker face to show confidence.
- Teach your child what to react/respond to and what to ignore. There are times when walking away or acting unimpressed are better than confronting the bully.
- As a parent learn to control your own emotions about the situation and try to look at it logically.
- Keep a bullying record – who did what and when to your child. This can be helpful to keep perspective on the situation and to show teachers.
- Get to know your community and other parents at your school or in your child’s class. By being connected or friends with other parents you could prevent bullying happening or quickly respond to it.
- It is hard for kids to know how to respond to bullies/bullying so do not make them feel bad about their initial response, even if you do not think it is the right course of action. Gently give them some other little ideas/tips for them to try next time
- Let your child know you are on their side and that you believe them.
- Validate and congratulate your child when they have dealt with the situation well, i.e., told you or a teacher.
- Do not encourage name calling or violence as a form of retaliation as it will just escalate the situation.
- Help nurture friendships with a non-bully, as having buddies can make dealing with bullying easier.
- Focus on building their resilience and self-esteem generally through supporting their interests and talents.
- Find places/hobbies that are away from the bully and in places where they will feel accepted.
- Encourage them to do things they enjoy like playing games, listening to music, reading books, playing sports, and hanging out with caring people. This might not stop the bullying, but it will help them manage their feelings, and help them to get through the tough times.
- Let them know bullying is never OK; it’s not cool and that it is not their fault or something they ‘deserve’. Let them know everyone has the right to feel safe and be treated with respect.
- Identify behaviour or actions which might aggravate the bully and try to curb them if appropriate and if there is a trigger.
- Educate your child generally about bullying and bullies.
- Encourage your child to come up with the solutions – What do they think might work? What do they think might make them feel better? Who would they like to talk to at school if it happens?
- As a parent talking to the school teacher or school counsellor about bullying is a good idea – so they can keep an eye out for your child or address it with the bullies in an appropriate way.
- Ask the school for its policy on bullying so you know what action they take.
Even after the bullying has stopped the child might need to deal with the effects.
Violence is not a way to deal with bullying or any of life’s problems. If we encourage a child to use violence whilst young, then they will often use it as a way to continue to deal with what life throws at them or as a coping mechanism and this is not good for anyone – especially someone with a bleeding disorder.
Read FOCUS ON CYBERBULLYING
Kids Helpline – is Australia's only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
Call 1800 55 1800 or visit www.kidshelp.com.au
Bullying Blocking – A social survival model to enable to cope with bullying.
Bullying. No Way! – managed by the Safe and Supportive School Communities (SSSC) Working Group.
National Centre Against Bullying – a peak body working to advise and inform the Australian community on the issue of childhood bullying and the creation of safe schools and communities, including the issue of cybersafety.