This past week social media has been rife with bullying videos & messages, which tugged at the nations hearts & got everyone talking. Yet my talk was a lot closer to home, actually it was in my home.

My eldest son, who is 9, had said goodnight, I had tucked him into bed and I sat down to catch up on some emails when he suddenly appeared in my room thinking he might be there to tell me a story of the day or a thing he forgot to share with me, in order to delay bedtime. But when I looked up from my PC, that face wasn’t one of delay, but more of one of despair.

Then the simple question,  “what’s’ wrong “  (words I have spoken many times, often answered by,  “no nothing I just want to give you a last hug, or   “I just want some water”) was met with the most powerful answer ever. That night my 9-year-old son looked at me, with tears rolling down his face, and spoke the words “I don’t want to be here anymore”. Words no mother ever wants to hear.

I remember feeling my tears well up too as I took his hand and pulled him in for a hug. Like a proper big bear hug, being momma bear to help her wounded little cub the best way I knew how.

To date this has been my hardest parenting moment as I literally felt my heart sink and knew that my little boy was broken and how and where do I even start to build him back up.

I could go on and on about that night and all that was spoken and said and figured out. Instead I just want to touch on a few steps and ideas which have helped us in the start of overcoming this big B word – Bullying.

  1. Talking about it

Talking with a young child is not always productive, but I felt this has been pivotal in us finding out about his worries. Yes after school I get – `My day was fine/bad or I cant remember’. I have always said to my kids that I am always here to help you, but I can’t do it if I don’t know what they need help with. When I have noticed something is off, I try get some alone time as I find this is when they have been happy to open up.

  1. Look out for a changes or warning sings

I am blessed that over the year that the bullying was happening, my son spoke up to me and vocalized what was happening. However looking back he also showed lots and lots of non-verbal signs, even before opening up to me.

The signs I have seen are:

  • Tears after something at school, sports, class etc
  • Baby talk
  • Bedwetting – linked to school (During holidays they are totally dry then the night before school begins they regress back to bedwetting)
  • Trying to avoid school
  • Change of clothing or normal day to day things. (My son started wearing really tight school pants because some kids were going around pulling down their pants, so he would want to wear super tight pants so they couldn’t get them down)
  1. Reach out to a teacher

We haven’t seen a huge impact on the bullying with this step, however I still feel it’s important.  I feel this can empower a child to reach out to someone within the school that they know is their daily if they need it. So even though they might not stop the bullying, it is another means of feeling heard and supported.

  1. How to react when a bully strikes

With this I have seen some of our suggestions work and some that don’t work at all. We have tried sentences like, “I don’t like the way you treating me,” yet my son is naturally anxious so those words vanish when confronted. Ultimately I know I can’t teach my child a one liner to deal with bullies. So we have said when people are not nice try letting it go in one ear and out the other, and then walk away. Also to teach him he is better than what they are saying, and he is loved.

  1. A diary

So this step has seemed to be the most popular for my son. I bought him a diary with a lock and gave it to him saying that this is your secret book to write down anything you want, about bully’s, school, home etc. The excitement was too sweet to see as I could see he felt empowered and in control with this. His Step Dad also suggested he writes something he is grateful for today, something that was bad and something that was good, which I think is an awesome idea.

  1. Songs

I love music and yes we are that crazy family you see driving along singing away in the car. Music can send messages better than speaking them. My son enjoys listening to music and I often let him listen to new songs I find that I think can pass on a good message. Recently we’ve been playing Lauren Daigles, `You Say’ song. Her words have been powerful for all of us, and in this song she sings, “When I don’t belong, You say that I am Yours.”  This has touched my son personally with how he feels.

I wish there was a set step-by-step guide on how to deal with bullying and a sure way to eradicate it totally. But there isn’t.  Teachers have always told me my son is kind, liked, popular, friendly, a model pupil etc, so I always thought he is the type of kid who would NEVER be bullied. Well I was wrong. I’ve learnt a bully comes in all shapes and sizes & so do the victims.

These are things that we have done with my son in addition to therapy. I would love to hear any ways/methods that helped you and your child through any bullying.

Contributed by Leigh-Anne McHugh of Clamber Club Sports Bryanston

Tel: 082 342 9277