Being the parent of a target or a bully is a very distressing experience. You may feel anger, fear, shame, confusion, frustration, embarrassment and powerlessness, according to whether your child is being targeted or is bullying others.
• You connect her experiences with those you experienced at her school, e.g. being excluded by a group of 'cliquey' parents.
• If you've experienced bullying at work, by a partner or elsewhere, painful memories may surface when your child is bullied. You recall your feelings of confusion, frustration, pain and powerlessness.
• If you recall being bullied at school, you probably didn't tell your parents. If you did tell them, they were either powerless or instructed you to 'walk away or thump them back.' Apart from the counsellor, most schools were ineffectual.
• You may blame yourself for not protecting your child or not teaching her social skills.
• You may feel frustrated when your child is labelled a bully, deny or blame others, even though unconsciously you are aware of the reasons. Perhaps you feel guilty because other difficult personal issues absorb your attention. If your child has been labelled a bully, intervene quickly so that she is not handicapped by this.
• Did you grow up in a passive, powerless, unempathic or authoritarian, physically or verbally abusive family?
• Do you have bad memories of being bullied? How did it affect you then and now? Did you get help? Release any pain (see Chapter 8) so that you can focus on your child, who needs your attention now. Share this with your child, so she feels less alone.
• Have you ever excluded, teased, denigrated, spread gossip, shouted at or manipulated someone else regularly? Unless you are a saint, you have probably inadvertently bullied others, e.g. siblings, partner, work colleagues or friends. Share this with your child.
• Obtain support and feedback from your partner, family and friends.
• Improve your own coping strategies: relax, de-stress (see Chapter 8), value yourself (see Chapter 10), improve your communication skills (see Chapter 11), and empower yourself (see Chapter 12).
• Establish support networks at school with staff and other parents. Join the parents' association, do voluntary work or see the counsellor.
• Are there any other personal or family difficulties at home? If you can't balance your stresses and strains while your child is suffering, obtain psychological help.
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