The effects of child bullying can be traumatising even as one grows into an adult. It’s a harrowing experience for children and their parents. And sometimes, a parent will hear their worst nightmare when the child says she wants to end her life due to the constant stress.
For 7-year-old Lisa (name changed) from Queensland, Australia, bullying was a nightmare that resulted in PTSD, an eating disorder, selective mutism, and severe anxiety.
Her Bullying Started At The Age Of Four
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Lisa has been the victim of excessive and vicious bullying in school that has driven her to the extreme. Describing her daughter’s condition, Lisa’s mother Jamie* was recently quoted saying that the incidents have had a traumatic effect on her child.
The little one went from being a social butterfly at the age of four to a depressed child at the age of seven.
Sadly, the bullying started from the first week of school when Lisa was called out for her weight. The ordeal continued relentlessly as the child was constantly teased for her weight, who was just 19.8 kg and 104 cm tall at the time.
The mother says that she saw the bullying first hand when two prep girls barricaded Lisa into the corner of the bathroom to tease her for her weight.
Jamie and her partner, Lisa’s father, had reported the incident to the school but nothing was done. The parents then escalated the issue to the Queensland Department of Education, but nothing came of it either. The parents say that no action was taken against the bullies. Instead, Lisa’s behaviour changed drastically as a result of excessive bullying.
Jamie says she noticed a drastic reduction in Lisa’s appetite. The girl would go to the extent of hiding her food.
Lisa, who had a liking for a variety of foods including sushi, lasagne, spaghetti bolognese and smoked salmon, would have none of it.
Effects Of Child Bullying: Weight Loss, Eating Disorder, Anxiety
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Over the next six months, Lisa’s weight dropped by six kgs. At the age of seven, she is now battling an eating disorder for the past two years. The bullying has caused Lisa to miss 40 days of school due to stress and anxiety. She was either too weak or too anxious to face her bullies.
From being a vibrant and chatty little girl, Lisa completely transformed into a “socially withdrawn” young girl. She won’t talk to anyone and has withdrawn from everyone at school.
The bullying also caused selective mutism where she completely stopped talking. And when she did, it would be extremely quiet.
“A male student who groped her and stuck his fingers up her skirt”
Lisa was also sexually assaulted by a male student who groped her and stuck his fingers up her skirt, according to the mother.
The incident was reported to school authorities and the student was given a two-day suspension. However, the rest of her tormenting bullies are still there.
Lisa has been diagnosed with severe anxiety, PTSD and mutism, and is currently under medication for the same. Jamie says the school and education department has done little to help their situation. This despite repeated requests to transfer Lisa and her brother, also a victim of bullying, to a different school.
As a mother, Jamie has been providing her child with treatment with psychologists and occupational therapists. But Lisa’s mental health has been spiralling and the seven-year-old did tell her mother that she “wants to kill herself.”
As a parent, seeing your child endure bullying in school is traumatic. More often, parents feel the issue is petty and children can handle it amongst themselves.
But in cases like that of Lisa and many children, the issue creates mentally traumatic experiences that affect later in life.
What Can Parents Do About School Bullying?
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It is extremely important that you deal with a bullying incident patiently and extend unconditional comfort and support to your child.
Children can be reluctant to speak to adults about bullying. They may feel embarrassed and ashamed of it happening and are scared of disappointing their parents.
As a parent, here’s what you can do to support your child through this phase of bullying.
Remind your child they are not alone
Children may think of bullying as their own fault and blame themselves for not acting differently. At times, bullies may have threatened your child from speaking to an adult.
And your child may refrain from sharing it with you in order to not make things worse than it is. Remind your child that they are not alone.
Instead of blaming themselves for the situation, you need to explain that it’s the bully who is at fault. Reassurance is the first step towards dealing with bullying.
Speak to a teacher or counsellor
It’s necessary that you speak to the teacher or a counsellor at your child’s school in case of regular instances of bullying. Some parents may speak to the bully’s parents directly, but that may not necessarily resolve the issue.
Ideally, having a school authority in the picture would be a more constructive way to deal with the issue.
Teacher or counsellors can work as mediators to dissolve the situation. At the end of the day, your child and the bully need to walk away from it as better people.
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Bullies thrive on children who avoid confrontation. They pick only those kids who either are unable to respond or will tolerate the bully’s actions.
This often comes from a lack of confidence in the child. Constant bullying will severely hurt your child’s inner confidence and destroy whatever there was in the first place.
As parents, you will have to work with your child to build that confidence again so they can confront their bullies.
Confidence not only comes from parents but also from friends. Having supportive friends can play an extremely crucial role in building the right attitude to deal with bullying.
Parents need to understand the activities their kids are most comfortable in or derive happiness from. Such activities when done in a group, will help your child meet other like-minded children and forge stronger friendships.
As a parent, always provide a listening ear to your child, no matter how big or small the bullying incident. Encourage your child to talk to you about the good and bad parts of their day and listen attentively.
Make sure they realise that what they say is important to you. Each child deserves a happier schooling experience and that’s why bullying needs to be nipped in the bud.
News courtesy: Kidspot