Sarah, 10, had been called names by a group of girls from the same class for the last few days. She wished the name calling would stop but unfortunately, the girls continued to taunt her and got others to shun her as well. Subsequently, Sarah feigned a stomachache to avoid going to school.

Mrs. Liu hesitated when considering whether or not to confront the bully in question when her 11-year-old son, Ian, was found to be constantly hit on the head by a classmate who sat behind him. Her husband felt that Ian needed to toughen up and learn to defend himself.

According to a survey conducted by the Singapore Children’s Society in 2007, one in five pupils from primary schools gets bullied. The incidence of bullying is high and usually happens in school.

It’s is crucial to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off thinking that your child, particularly, your son, will rough it out. Bullying is an intentional act to torment another person through physical, verbal or psychological means that can affect a child’s self-worth. In severe cases, bullying can leave deep emotional scars that follow a child for life. As parents, there are ways you can help your child cushion the impact of bullying.

Listen and be empathic.
This encourages your child to feel safe in sharing the incidents without feeling ashamed. This also supports and reduces the pain and misery when your child knows he or she is being heard and understood.

Explore the cause of bullying with your child.
Resist the urge to confront the bully as it may worsen the situation. Alternatively, you could empower your child to find ways to resolve the bullying. In cases where your child is the provoking party, you will need to guide him or her to stop doing so.

Assess the severity of bullying.
If a child is being assaulted or normal functioning is severely impaired by fear of attending school, bedwetting, or distress, it is necessary to contact the school and seek help.

As a parent, you are the first line of help for your child. Sensitivity towards their pain coupled with supportive encouragement can often help reduce the impact of bullying. Do remember too that though bullying can be very upsetting, there are resources and people available to help you. You can always seek out counselling support from the school or approach the family service centre in your vicinity.

Written by Gwen Koh, Senior Social Worker and Counsellor