In the course of my work, I hear from many anxious parents about the issues of schooling, ranging from starting school for the first time to issues of friendships and bullying to “I don’t want to go to school today”. Here are some top tips to ensure a successful start to term.
Elaine Halligan of The Parent Practice offers support for Bullying. Elaine regularly helps parents with child behaviour problems and can also advise on how to deal with bullying at school as well as other educational topics.
My son started senior school this year and has been teased recently and called really terrible names. It is so upsetting. What do I say to him?
It truly is heartbreaking when your child comes back from school and tells you about the taunts he is getting from other children. The temptation is to jump in feet first and want to sort the bullies out and to maybe take pity on your son, neither of which will help him get through this. Often we also advise our children to just ignore the other children and walk away. Whilst that’s not a bad strategy, it doesn’t address the child’s hurt feelings. The reality is name calling does hurt and lowers self esteem and our role as parents is to listen to our children and ensure their feelings about how hurt, embarrassed, isolated, or lonely they feel are validated and understood. Once that happens our children are more able to find their own solutions.
Allow your child to vent their feelings via role-play, with you pretending to be the bully and allow your son to rant and rave and say exactly what he wants.
Talk to your child about why bullies act as they do. Very often they are the ones not in control and feeling powerless and low in self esteem. This is not to excuse the behaviour, but to come up with an effective way of dealing with it.
Encourage him to talk to someone at school responsible for pastoral care.
Teach him strategies to allow him to have a quick, but non-inflammatory repost to the bully such as “That’s your opinion and you are entitled to that”; “ Uh-huh, yeah right” roll eyes and walk away; “ I would care because...”; “Really? I didn’t know that.” The aim is to take the power out of the taunts.
Get him to try and think through solutions with your input but try not to offer too much advice, as it can make children feel less empowered.
My child often says “I don’t want to go to school today”. It is really irritating and makes us late for school as I try and cajole her and then end up getting cross and shouting. Any ideas?
I can see how a child saying “I don’t want to go to school today” is a real button pusher especially if you have more than one child to get ready for school and out of the door on time. Our normal reaction is to reassure and say “Everything will be ok. You’ll love it - you’ll see” or question “Why don’t you want to go to school?” which is more often than not met with the typical response of “I don’t know” or “I just don’t”. Indeed this approach rarely gets the right results as the child will feel not listened to and will dig their heels in.
If children can say how they feel, parents need to listen and not deny the child’s feelings. Do say: “There are probably a lot of things that are quite confusing right now since school is so new to you.”Some children don’t speak about their feelings but parents can guess something is amiss and need to address the underlying feelings.
Talk about school at a non-pressured time. Stop what you are doing and convey with your body language that you are paying attention.
Look behind your child’s action or words and imagine how he is feeling; reflect it back to him in words. “Maybe school feels a bit overwhelming at the moment. I guess you have to get used to new people and new activities and maybe you’re wondering about how to make friends…..”
Don’t try to change their feelings in the moment. Children don’t need protection from their feelings– they need to be able to deal with them. Once their feelings have been expressed they may be ready to give you more information so you can help or focus on their own solutions. Indeed you may not know what the emotion/feeling is so take a guess. If you are wrong, most children will be quick to tell you and if you are right, many children will just go silent but at least they hear you are trying to understand.
To speak with Elaine for individual expert advice on child behaviour problems or bullying at school call her on 09056754616 or view her profile.