Signs that your Child is being Bullied and how to Stop Bullying
Bullying in schools has serious consequences for children but we often think of bullying happening from primary school onwards. However, bullying can start as early as preschool although the form of bullying differs for younger children.
Here are the characteristics of bullying at preschooler age!
• Intentional and habitual actions to hurt: Preschoolers may thoughtlessly hurt another child, or the inability to exercise full self-control may lead to actions that are rough or sudden. However, if the actions are intentional and occur frequently, it can be characterized as bullying.
• Need to dominate others: Preschoolers are around the age when they start to understand that it is possible to socially dominate over their peers, either through aggressive act or speech. Bullying is when the preschooler actively targets other children who are smaller in size, shy or different.
• Verbal bullying: Constantly targeting other children by calling them names and making them feel small or different is a form of bullying.
• Physical bullying: Habitually pushing, hitting or doing things that hurt other children physically.
• Emotional bullying: Also known as relational or psychological bullying, this happens when the bully intentionally excludes another child from the group, or go out of his way to make the other child feel left out.
Signs that your child is being bullied
Although parents are not present at the preschool, you can look out for these signs that your child is being bullied:
• Unwillingness to attend preschool: This may also be in the form of refusing to take the school bus if the bullying happens on the way to school.
• Change in mood: A preschooler may turn moody, anxious or look sad, or stops enjoying his favorite activities or hobbies.
• Change in appetite: A preschooler may fear eating too much if he is being teased for being chubby in school.
• Bruises: A preschooler with unexplained bruises or pinch marks may be bullied physically in school.
• Complaints of headaches and stomachaches: This may be a sign of physical bullying or the emotionally bullying causes the child to feel sick and nauseous.
• Change in sleep: A preschool may feel so traumatized and upset during the day and be unable to fall asleep at night. He may also be worried of being bullied the next day and cannot fall asleep or cry in his sleep.
• Regressive behavior: Behaviors such as fearing to go to bed or bedwetting may be signs of being bullied.
What you can do if your child is being bullied?
If your preschooler is being bulled, it is appropriate for you to step in to help – at this young age, it is important for the child to be supported so that his self-esteem will not be affected as he grows up:
• Make it a daily routine to talk about school – A lot of bullying is discovered through conversations with the child. You may think that nothing much is happening at preschool since there is no examination or test. However, making a point to talk about what happened during the day will build trust, love and care between parent and child and a window to the child’s life in years to come.
If you realize that your child is being bullied, stay calm and listen to him. Ask simple questions to establish the sequence of events and summarize or rephrase to be sure that you have not misunderstood the situation. Let your child know that it is not his fault that he is being bullied and that it is normal to feel upset about being bullied.
• Notify the preschool – It is appropriate to notify the preschool once you have identified that what is happening to your child resembles being bullied. You do not have to do this in a confrontational or accusatory manner, instead take an open-minded approach that the preschool teachers should be made aware and investigate. Let your child know that you will tackle the problem together and that letting the preschool know is an important step to deal with the situation.
• Follow-up with the preschool – You can actively follow-up with the preschool on their investigation and if there is any follow-up action. You can then monitor whether your child is feeling better, for instance, more relieved and less threatened about going to school.
• Coach your child for preparation – Explain to your child why certain children may become a bully, for instance, they may have low self-esteem or their home environment is unstable. Reassure your child that he is not to be blamed for being bullied. However, teach him on what he should do in the future – walk away from the bully and notify the preschool teacher. It is also important to let your child know that whatever he has shared with you will be held in confidence.
• Help your child not to be targeted – While bullying cannot be prevented totally, you can equip your child to exhibit positive body language; children with heads down or slouching shoulders, who speak softly or refuse to participate tend to be targeted. Instead teach your child to hold his hand high and stand straight, and to speak evenly and firmly instead of whimpering when being targeted.
• Praise positive behavior – When your child stands up to a bully through positive body language and speech, give due recognition and praise. It takes practice and confidence to stand up to a bully!
• Restore confidence outside of preschool – You can encourage your child to participate in other activities outside of preschool and experience the joy of playing in a bully-free environment. He can then restore confidence in his own ability to make friends and reinforce the idea that being bullied is not his fault as he is able to thrive in an environment without being bullied.
• Coach friendship skills – You can also roleplay with your child how to face the bully as well as how to make friends. Positive talk like “I like being your friend, let’s play together” is better than doubtful talk like “Can I be your friend? No one wants to play with me”. Encourage your child to make new friends and constantly engage him in conversations and brainstorm ways to make friends.
It is important to recognize that bullying can occur at preschooler age; be engaged with and supportive of your preschooler so that he knows that you are there to help him overcome the bullying in school.