Today we have a guest post from Emily’s mum who blogs at Mental Health Diary and who writes about her and her daughter’s personal story with bullying. If you would like to read more about their story please visit her blog.
With a deep breath I search for inner strength as my 13 year old daughter Emily screams
and cries as I try to leave her at ‘school’. The marks on her wrist from last nights attempt at self harm are still clearly visible. Through her tears she pleads with me not to leave her, she’d rather be dead.
Two years ago this same child confidently ‘graduated’ from her junior school with a good group of friends and sunny outlook on life. She was a nice girl, studious, kind, well spoken and caring. Now she is broken.
You may be wondering what could cause this transformation. The answer is something we’ve probably all faced at some point in our lives, to some degree at least. The reason my daughter is no longer able to go to ‘real’ school, out with her friends, sleep, joke or even smile is down to bullying.
You may have picked up on my reference to ‘real’ school. I make the distinction as Emily is now attending an intensive treatment centre for children and young people with serious and complex mental health problems. Post traumatic stress syndrome has left her unable to attend mainstream school. Add depression and anxiety attacks and life becomes very difficult.
This is the damage serious bullying can cause. Emily’s story is extreme; she sustained verbal and physical bullying at school over a prolonged period, so I’m not trying to scare you into thinking this could be your child or this is what happens with every case of bullying. That said, I’m sure Emily is not alone either.
All schools have bullying policies. Words are great, but unless they act upon those words then the policy may as well not exist. The school in question let us all down. In the end my children moved elsewhere, but the damage had been done.
Children fall out, it’s a natural part of life and growing up. Usually within a couple of days everything is forgotten and it’s all ok. But if it doesn’t settle back down what do you do?
Bullying can take many forms and sometimes these can be hidden from view; social media, text and instant messaging to name a few. Some telltale signs can be not wanting to go to school or out with friends, being upset or quiet without an obvious reason, change in appetite or even wanting to change their appearance.
I’m not qualified to give advice, I’m just a Mum, but I can tell you the single most important thing you can do is to give them your time. Don’t just listen to them, really hear them. Building a relationship of trust without judgment can make the difference between them talking to you or not. And if you think you need specialist help, seek it out.
Those schools failing to enforce their bullying policies should read the full story about Emily and understand what can happen if they do not take their responsibilities seriously. After all, they have a duty of care.
But it’s not just the schools, it’s us too, the parents or anyone involved in the care of children. We need to accept that there is a responsibility placed upon us to protect. We need to teach them to respect others, realise that we are all different and that is not a bad thing or a reason to ridicule. The bully will need just as much support as the bullied. There is a reason for their behavior. If the bully is your child, find out that reason and help them or get them outside support.
I want to say to each and every one of you. Bullying should not be accepted as ‘part of life’. We should be free to express our opinions and be our own person, but that does not give us the right to hurt another verbally or physically.
Bullying does not just affect the child, or even the child and the parents. The ripples reach out so far, to friends, Grandparents, siblings and even colleagues. But it doesn’t stop there, left unsupported, serious bullying can affect a child well into their adult life.
How do I know? Because I am that adult and it gives me the determination I need to make sure Emily does not suffer the same fate.
Find out more about bullying and where to turn for help on Netmums. And to chat to other mums about bullying we have a special forum in the Netmums Coffee House and we also have Parent Supporters on hand to give support and advice in our Drop-in Clinic.