Talking to our kids about bullying can be tough, which is why we've asked the experts from some of the top international schools in Singapore for some help!
As parents, it’s our instinct to protect our kids from everything that’s bad. But the reality is, we can’t be there all the time — which is why it’s important to talk to them about bullying. Sure, it’s a tough subject to talk about with your kids, but bullying is one hot topic that’s worth a serious discussion. Wondering how to get started? We’ve consulted the experts from some of the top international schools on the island on the topic. Here’s what they had to say…
How to talk to your kids about bullying
1. Reassure them that you’re always there for them and ready to listen
The folks from the Wellbeing Team at AIS believe that actively listening to our kids, in a calm and non-reactive manner, will help them open up to us. “You should praise your child for their courage in speaking to you,” says the team. By making them feel comfortable, they’ll feel less embarrassed about sharing their stories — whether it’s about bullying or being bullied — and be more likely to connect with you because you understand what they’re going through.
2. Know the tell-tale signs that your child is being bullied
Significant changes in behaviour
One of the biggest signs is when you notice significant changes in the behaviour of your child. “If your child is normally quite happy and outgoing, and they become withdrawn or moody, this could be a sign that something is wrong. If your child is normally quite shy, but has emotional outbursts more often, it’s important to further investigate why this could be happening,” explains Cara from AIS.
School avoidance tactics
Another sign, according to Tiui Elisara, head of wellbeing of The Perse School, is if your child seems withdrawn or confrontational. We should also look out for school avoidance tactics. “They might develop ‘stomach aches’ or ‘headaches’ in the morning before school so they can stay at home instead,” warns Alexandra Cipirano, SMMIS‘s Head of Secondary School.
Do they have friends in school?
Finally, we should ask them about their friends at school. “When your child says that they don’t have any friends at school or they have difficulty with identifying the names of friends when you ask, that’s also a sign they’re being bullied,” advises the AIS Wellbeing Team. “Often bullies tend to target or ostracise those kids that aren’t well socially connected because they are more vulnerable.”
3. Show how much you value their openness
The more you encourage your child to be open, the more empowered they will be. “Give your child affirmative statements; they need to know that they have done a positive thing in opening up to an adult, that they are loved and valued by you, and that they do not have to put up with bullying,” advises Alexandra from SMMIS.
Think your child is being bullied? Here’s what you should do:
1. Remind them that it isn’t their fault
If you suspect your child is being bullied, they need your reassurance and love more than ever. “Reassure your child that bullying is always wrong, and that they are in no way to blame,” advises the wellbeing team at AIS.
2. Stay calm
If you want your child to open up to you, it’s important to stay calm and relaxed. The more you react and become emotional about bullying, the more likely they’ll recoil and withhold information. “Stay calm and create a safe, loving space to discuss anything they want to with you. This will enable you to draw informed information that can be fed back to those involved,” shares the folks at SMMIS.
3. Tell the school
“We strongly encourage parents to contact the school as soon as possible if they suspect that their child is being bullied,” says Alexandra of SMMIS. The sooner you contact the school, the sooner it can get involved and start putting processes into place to stop the bullying.
4. Know your school’s policy on bullying
At OWIS, bullying is taken very seriously. This is why it emphasises taking a kind approach whenever possible to prevent bullying from happening. Administrators, teachers and staff are told to remain vigilant and recognise the signs of bullying among students. At The Perse School, clear boundaries and expectations are set at the beginning of the school year so all children and staff are aware of the standards, and that it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying.
So how do you prevent bullying?
OWIS cultivates a positive culture and leverages its close-knit community to prevent bullying at the school. The school encourages parents to teach their children to report any instances of bullying or to alert a teacher if they notice any signs of bullying among their classmates. It also encourages a kind approach, which helps counter bullying by creating a school community that prioritises respect.
At AIS, its wellbeing check-in tool called C.A.R.E.S (Connections, Attitude, Relationships, Engagement and Safety), offers a simple survey designed to capture a snapshot of how students are feeling at a given point in time during the school year. So far, it has helped many students to come forward with their cases, knowing that the school will be there to support them every step of the way.
By showing our kids that open and honest conversations about bullying is important, the more aware and confident they’ll be about the matter. Stay strong, parents!