Bullying in schools seems to have received significant media attention over the last few years and is without doubt a hot topic. At the extreme, it involves students filming fights and spreading them using a variety of modern technologies available. At its most sinister it involves the subtleties of being ignored, excluded from groups and conversations, being subjected to side comments and emotional attacks. Whatever form it takes, bullying must be taken seriously by schools and by parents.

What is bullying? Bullies no longer necessarily look like the schoolyard thugs of the past (although they still can). The definition of bullying lies in the eyes of the victim.

 If a student feels unsafe, unwelcome, or mistreated in anyway by other students on an ongoing basis, this constitutes bullying.

It is important to remember that bullying behaviours are those which occur on an ongoing basis, and are not just one off incidents.

It is also important that as parents, and I include myself here, we do not allow our emotions to overtake us and overreact to stories of bullying brought home by our children.   Make sure to check with the classroom teacher, and if necessary the school, about what really has occurred. The school office where your child attends will know who the best person is for you to speak with.

Keeping home-school communication clear and open is vital to successfully resolving many bullying issues.

Once a school has thoroughly investigated events, and can inform parents of how they have done so, it is very important for parents to trust what the school tells them. It is very difficult to help children whose parents simply believe only what their children tell them and refuse to believe the school even in the face of significant evidence supporting the school.

I know that it is difficult to remain calm and rational when you see your child presenting as hurt or emotionally distressed. Just remind yourself that your child is presenting their perspective on events and it may not be the whole story.  Remember there are always three sides to every story!

The first step in dealing with bullying is to make sure that the perpetrators know that the behaviour is unwelcome and inappropriate. Often simply incorporating an education program into the school’s curriculum about what is and is not appropriate behaviour stops bullying from taking place. Once it has been made clear to perpetrators that their behaviour is unacceptable, it is very clear cut that they are bullying if the behaviour continues.