The indirect approach

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If your child won't discuss the problem, try this indirect approach.

Sometimes parents and teachers hear about the bullying from another source. When they confront the child, they may encounter denial, negation or minimisation of the bullying. It can sound like this: 'I am used to being teased' or 'I just try and forget it is happening' or 'I don't mind' or 'He started it'. Most children don't like upsetting their parents or involving teachers, so don't listen to the first layer of denial. Discuss with your child the dangers of being bullied and the importance of doing something constructive.

Be aware that children of all ages are exposed to nasty swear words at most primary and secondary schools: the worst words, e.g. the 'f' word, are used in Year One in the best private schools! Many children are too scared or embarrassed to tell adults about the toxic swear words they receive - 'How could I tell my parents that he told me to "get fucked" when I'm not allowed to swear at home?'

Question her: 'Has anyone said or done anything else that makes you feel very bad, but you are not sure if you are allowed to tell me?' Give your child permission to talk about these bad words, even though she is not normally allowed. Unless exposed, these words may continue to wound your child for years to come.

Ask your child:

'What are the words used to tease children at your school?'

'What are the nasty things children do to other children?'

'What do the other children do while it is happening?'

'Do the teachers know, and what do they do?'

'What is the most hurtful form of bullying?'

And then (after a pause):

'Has this ever happened to you?'

'How often does it happen in a day, a week or a month?'

'Where does it happen - class, corridor, yard, on the way to school?'

'What do your friends do?'

'Do they know how upset you are inside?'

'Does the school know you are very scared every day?'

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