Secrets

Donald was called 'egghead' and teasedfor years. The teachers and other kids saw him as tense and secretive. He was born premature with physical difficulties - his mother was scared he would die, and so overprotected him. At our last session, she casually mentioned that his twin had died at birth. She had kept this a secret from Donald until very recently. Until then, he had known that he was special, but not why.

The mitery tee - how I help the bully

Fill in the spaces on the tree with the reasons. Use feedback and anything else you can find.

Fill in the spaces on the tree with the reasons. Use feedback and anything else you can find.

Some families pretend to the world - and themselves - that they are normal. They gloss over or minimise their own or their children's problems. They deny marital difficulties - 'It's none of their business' - or schoolwork problems - 'The teacher has a problem.' Although parents want to protect their child, their actions proclaim, 'I must protect you because you have problems'. Children aren't stupid: they identify the cover-up message and, as always, blame themselves, which lowers their self-confidence even further. If parents say, 'We deal with our problems at home', it teaches children to remain silent about problems, even bullying.

At home, children like to share their day, but secrets obstruct conversation. Likewise, keeping secrets at school - e.g. 'Our family is normal' - uses up a huge amount of a child's energy. It leaves no room for normal socialising. Secretive children who don't complain make good targets; they have limited energy to protect themselves from bullies, to build supportive friends and to report the bullying. Most families of bullies keep secrets about the level of abuse and neglect within their home, whether it is subtle or blatant. Then schools blame the bullies, who have copied their parents.

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