We all live in fear that our children will be bullied at school. Many of us have dealt with it already and it's devastating. Normally, once it's been reported, schools can deal with incidents and at home we can work on empowering our kids to stand up for themselves. But what if you don't even know there's a problem until it is too late? What if the bullying causes your child to completely withdraw from life, and nothing you do to try and help them works?
Isaac is a 16-year-old Brisbane boy who has refused to go to school for two years due to bullying. His mother is desperate for help. She says her son's anxiety has gotten worse and now barely leaves the house.
"It just started with him saying that he was feeling sick but then it went on to longer and longer periods between him going to school," his mother Anita told news.com.au.
"In hindsight I think I should have somehow managed to make him go but just couldn't."
The bullying began when Isaac was in Year 8. "Some boys picked him up and put him in the bin…and I think he found that really humiliating and another time they called him the 'Bogan from Logan'. I thought it was nothing but obviously it was to him because he still brings it up."
According to Kids Helpline, bullying is the fourth most common reason why children and young people seek help from children's help services. School-related bullying is one of the top four worries for children under 15.
One of Anita's issues is that she is a single mother-of-three who just didn't know where to turn for help.
"I also think a lot comes down to being a single parent of three kids. I know people say don't blame yourself, but unfortunately I do, I am his mother and shouldn't have allowed it to get this far."
Kids Helpline says parents should keep an eye out for bullying and get help for their children as early as possible. They say to look out for:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or pencil marks on the skin;
- Being quiet or withdrawn;
- Reporting vague headaches or stomach aches;
- Ripped, stained or soiled school clothes;
- 'Losing' lunch money or other things at school;
- Falling out with previously close friends;
- Being moody or easily distressed;
- Not wanting to leave the house or reluctance to go to popular places such as shops or parks (they may be trying to avoid the bully);
- Not wanting to go to school;
- Difficulty sleeping at night;
- Worrying about a lot of things;
- Sudden changes in eating behaviour.
Isaac's reaction to being bullied isn't uncommon althought it is an extreme example. As a result of bullying most children will lose motivation and concentration at school, will become shy, socially isolated and scared to interact with people, children can also suffer poor self-esteem and loss of self-confidence and they can also suffer physically with anxiety or panic attacks, depression and even suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Anita organised for Isaac to change schools but he hardly attended. She then enrolled him into the Brisbane School of Distance Education but he never logs on to complete his work.
"Isaac says to me 'I want to go to school but I can't even make myself (log on to study)'," she said.
If you suspect your child is being bullied Kids Helpline suggests parents try the following:
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