Trying to deal with your children when they’re being bullied can be incredibly tough. Here are some helpful tips from someone who’s been through it.
Melanie Broughton is a children’s book author and single mum of three grown-up children. When one of her children was bullied at school, she decided to write a book, Daisy Finds Her Smile, designed to help teach children about bullying, kindness and building meaningful relationships. Here she explains how she dealt with her issue.
The best way to address the topic of bullying with children is simply to start an open conversation with them about it. Providing opportunities for children to share their thoughts and ask questions from a young age makes a huge difference.
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. Hosted by Place 2 Be, a children’s mental health charity, it explores the theme of ‘Growing Together’, emphasising the different ways everyone can be more considerate of their mental health and that of others. Talking about mental health might seem a daunting task, but it is very rewarding and a primary way adults can “grow together” with kids, teaching them about kindness, accepting diversity and celebrating our differences.
If you’re not sure about how to start these discussions, find a way to simplify and structure the message. The need for this in my own life eventually led to me writing a children’s book, Daisy Finds Her Smile.
I started writing Daisy Finds Her Smile back in 2008 as a bit of fun for my children. I always said that I would make it into a book one day as the story highlights the impact of bullying. However, when one of my children was bullied at school it made me more determined to finish it. The book is the true story of Daisy, a little disabled duck that I once owned. Daisy lived with my chickens and they bullied her. But her life was turned around when I bought two more ducks to keep her company and the strength of their friendship won the day.
Aimed at primary school aged children, Daisy Finds Her Smile is a sweet story that both touches on bullying and ways to help others feel included. It emphasises the importance of kindness and understanding that not all differences or potential disabilities are visible.
I should mention that I am no authority or expert on bullying, just a mum who wrote a book with an anti-bullying message. However, it’s not always the expert voices that have the strongest impact, but perhaps those of parents who know their children best.
After reading a story like Daisy Finds Her Smile, or finding a similar method to start the conversation about bullying with your child, pass the baton on to them. Ask what they think and encourage them to add their own thoughts. Some beginning questions might be:
Considering these questions will help your child to think of other people’s feelings from a young age and not just focus on their own.
It is important to highlight to children that they have the power to make a difference. When talking to your child about bullying, conclude the conversation by asking what they think they can do to make new friends and be inclusive.
For my children and I, we focused on the simple strength of being friendly and smiling at others. Finish up your discussion by emphasising what I call ‘Special Smiling Powers’ (or SSP for short). Try saying: “Can you all practise your best smile. Did you know you all have SSP – Special Smiling Powers? Guess what? I bet if you smile at someone, you really will see them smiling back at you. It’s a bit like magic!” It made all the difference with my children.
I hope this provides a helpful structure for talking about bullying with your child. Half the battle is starting the conversation but there is a lot that adults can learn from this simple exercise too. Unfortunately, bullying is present in all areas of life, especially the workplace, and so, the next time you might witness or experience bullying yourself, remember that talking about it is important and that all individuals have the power to make others feel accepted.