I’d like to encourage all parents to be courageous and to follow their instincts when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of their children at school.
So often, I’ve heard parents complaining about:
- their child’s moodswings and strange new behaviours and attitudes
- terrible incidents that have happened at school
- inappropriate behaviour between children.
When I’ve asked: “What have you done about it?” and I’m answered with: “Well, nothing, really,” it makes me wonder why they’ve done nothing. Are they:
- uncomfortable communicating
- unaware of current issues
- unable to cope with conflict?
If you feel that your child is not behaving normally after a school day, don’t be complacent. Find out if everything went okay that day. Often schools try to deal with issues and the parents never get to find out. A child who is afraid to say what’s wrong could easily develop new behaviours (usually undesirable as they’re acting out). They may be influenced by their peers at school and not even realise they’re behaving differently.
When you see your child after their day at school and you ask them what they did that day, and all they can do is shrug their shoulders and say, “Nothing…” then you know something’s up. Something has probably happened to preoccupy your child’s mind above and beyond the education of the day. A happy child will more than likely want to talk.
Bullying is often not understood by children. They might be the nicest of kids and not want to “tell” on their friends or school mates in case they get bullied further, or taunted; they could already be afraid of the bully.
Abuse in any form will affect a child’s mood and behaviour. The important thing to do is to NOTICE! Too often our children start to change and we put it down to:
- a phase
- growing up
The most important things to do are to:
NOTICE – that your child is behaving differently to usual.
- ELICIT – often the best way is the straightforward, honest way: You could say: “I can see something’s wrong. I don’t want you to feel like you have to tell me right now but until you do, I can’t do anything to help you, and I really want to help you to feel happy and safe. Come and tell me when you want to feel happy and safe.” All children want to feel happy and safe and it’s our duty as their parents/carers/adults to ensure this.
- REMAIN CALM – there is no point in getting worked up. Your child needs to know that you are in control of the situation and you won’t be showing that if you’ve lost the plot! They need to know that they can come to you whenever they have a crisis.
- REASSURE – your child needs reassurance that they aren’t going to be in trouble for telling, and they need to know that if required, you will be discreet so that they won’t be victimised further.
- TAKE ACTION – always do something about it! Whatever the problem is. Show your child that it was worth telling you and that you have taken them seriously. (If you don’t, who will?) You may need to speak to the school, or in less urgent situations, write to the school and follow up with them to ensure that they have taken on board what you’ve said so that they can act in the best interests of your child when your child is in their care. It is always a good idea to follow up with the teacher/office/head teacher and if necessary, meet with them and your child to show solidarity and so that your child knows what the next steps are.
- FOLLOW UP – always let the child know what action has been taken so that they can prepare themselves (mentally and emotionally or academically – dependent on the situation).
- SUPPORT – always let the child know that they have your support and that the right thing to do is to always tell you straightaway if something is wrong because their happiness and safety is most important to you. Find support for yourself too.
Remember that we’re not alone in the struggle to keep our children safe. We are ALL IN THE SAME BOAT!
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