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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Padraig O'Morain: Children need to know we will listen to their troubles

Some children would rather put up with prolonged bullying than tell their parents what is going on.

Indeed some would rather die because of the cringe-making thought of having their parents kicking up a public row about the bullying.

Where does that leave parents? After all, we desperately want to intervene. Many worry about the possibility that bad things could be happening to their children which they are not being told about.

We need to arm our children by letting them know they will meet unfair behaviour from others as they go through school and through life. Some of that behaviour will be impossible to understand -- unlike bad behaviour on television which usually has a clear motivation and is usually punished.

It is also important, I think, to make it clear that you are always willing to listen to them.

Encourage them to talk to you if anything bad happens but don't then go on to say "and I'll sort it out" or something of that kind because that's exactly what might put them off.

Actually, you don't know that you can sort it out either. As the article on this page explains, few parents nowadays can walk their child home from school every day.

Listening to your child and letting him or her talk and talk about it may be the best thing you can do, along with discreetly approaching the school and asking teachers to keep an eye on the situation.



advice

If nothing improves, you may have to make a judgment on whether and how to approach the other parents involved. Again, it would be worth seeking the school's advice on this. And don't drag your child with you for a confrontation: that will simply guarantee that they will never tell you anything again.

If nothing improves you may have to change your child to another school but not every parent can do this and I expect that not every child wants this.

Point out to your child that a time will come when this bully is in the past and your child will have forgotten about him or her. Help the child to see that it is possible to get to the other side of situations like this in one piece.

Of course there are exceptions to all this. If the school has a Stay Safe or similar programme, children will be encouraged to talk to someone they trust if they are sexually abused.

And by reacting in a calm and reasonable way when your child complains about conflicts with other children, you can create the space in which the child is more likely to tell you about bullying.

Even with all that preparation, though, you may never know.

Padraig O'Morain is accredited as a counsellor by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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