I hope you are all managing to keep safe and well and are maintaining the good practices that have kept us so healthy. Although we have seen a bit more sickness/ absentees over the last couple of weeks, within both students and staff , it has been interesting to see the reduction in illnesses such as colds, flu and gastro that often go through schools since the increase in hand washing and staying home if you are unwell.
It is also important that we maintain the limits on adults attending schools. I would like to sincerely thank you all for your support in this. It has been disappointing to have to turn parents away when we have worked so hard to encourage you in in the past. I know that many of you are missing seeing your kids to the classroom and having a look at their work. The positive side to this has been seeing the resilience of your kids improve. They are generally very confident in making their way to class and getting themselves set up. Please keep in contact with your child’s teacher if you have any questions. We are happy to make phone call or zoom appointments. With our continued hard work on maintaining these practices, hopefully we will stay COVID-19 safe.
As we move into the second half of the term, the business of school life is being somewhat taken for granted and we need to be mindful of the stresses which young children can experience at this time of year. Kids need to be active, but they also need time to rest. Sleep and nutrition are vital, especially during periods of vigorous routine and or illness. This is the time where children will start to feel the wear and tear of school, homework and extra-curricular activities. Naturally, they will become more emotional over issues that a few weeks ago would be handled with ease. One such issue would be maintaining positive relationships with their school mates.
Conflict with peers is unavoidable and is all part of growing up. From my experience, most disagreements occur at the back end of each school term. Petty, niggling things that others may say or do suddenly become major reasons for arguments and strained friendships. At times like these, teachers and parents play an important role in guiding children through these rough patches. It is also important not to catastrophize issues into something they are not.
An example of this is to avoid labelling minor school or playground incidents as bullying. Bullying should not be confused with not getting along with someone, rejection, random or one-off verbal or physical conflict. While teachers put a lot of effort into supporting students to maintain positive relationships with each other, children will tease and fight at some stage; however, this bickering or ‘friendship fires’ should not be confused with bullying.
Bullying is an insidious behaviour and can take on many forms and guises such as physical and emotional abuse, intimidation, harassment and exclusion. It is not the domain of just one gender. Girls bully just as much as boys, but they do it in less physical ways. Whilst boys use physical intimidation or verbal abuse to wield power, girls are more likely to use exclusion or sarcasm to assert themselves.
Bullying is about lack of power, as one person is powerless to stop the teasing or physical abuse. Bullying is the selective, uninvited, repetitive oppression of one person by another person or group. Sometimes, we don’t find out that someone has been bullied until after a long period of time and this proves very difficult to resolve, as recollections of incidents can become unclear if they occurred some months beforehand. This is why it is important to identify and act on any possible signs of potential bullying at the earliest opportunity. For this to occur, teachers, parents and children need to communicate and co-operate as soon as any signs may appear.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, here are some helpful hints on what to do:
- Listen to their story. Children experiencing stress in their lives need someone to believe their story. Take them seriously yet take some time to help them differentiate between bullying and teasing. Kids can be nasty to one another at times, yet this does not constitute bullying.
- Get the facts. Ensure you get a clear picture of what happened, including who was involved, the frequency and what occurs prior to any bullying. Get your child to be as specific as possible. A quiet chat with your child’s teacher the following day will help enormously. The teacher may be unaware of such behaviour occurring and now can start planning a course of action, or he or she can provide further information of what occurred.
- Deal with their feelings. A child who is being bullied probably feels scared, angry and sad. Reassure them that it is ok to feel this way and by working together things will get better.
- Help build your child’s support networks. Kids need friends to support them when they experience bullying, so look for practical ways to broaden friendship groups. Avoid withdrawing or utilizing social media to solve the issue at all costs.
- Build their self-confidence. Provide plenty of encouragement. Let them know through your words and treatment of them that they will get through this tough period.
If you ever have concerns that your child is being bullied it is important to speak with the classroom teacher as soon as possible so that the situation can be investigated and action taken immediately. When parents and the school can work together to support our children with effective skills/ strategies to deal with friendship difficulties, they will develop resilience and a skill set that will help them overcome tough situations. These strategies will be invaluable as they continue their journey into secondary schooling.