mobbing school Picture©AndreaObzerova - iStockphoto

Identify and prevent bullying at school

Bullying at school is a heavy physical and psychological burden for the victims. We show which stress factors play a role in bullying, how to recognise victims of bullying and how parents can help.

What is bullying?

Bullying involves all forms of physical and psychological violence against a weaker person. This involves chicanery and targeted attacks at regular intervals over a longer period of time. Bullying takes place in all age groups, but is particularly widespread among children and young people. Those affected are under a high social stresswhich in the long run leads to both psychological and physical symptoms.

Direct and indirect bullying

Bullying has many faces: While bullying at primary school age is mainly associated with verbal Threats, insults and physical harassment in the form of punches, kicks and thrusts is accompanied by the development of the so-called indirect or even tacit bullying into focus. Victims are then ignored and deliberately isolated from the class community, for example.

Also Cyberbullying counts as indirect bullying. In this kind of bullying. perpetrators destroy the reputation of the victim; for example with fake accounts or with the publication of private as well as fake pictures and video material.

The bullying process

Even though the type of bullying differs from offender to offender, a mobbing process goes through three phases during which the victim is increasingly under stress. Only those affected are able to withstand such stress in the long term without consequential damage. Victims of bullying often suffer from severe psychological and physical problems.

  1. Exploration: During this early phase of bullying, children begin to harass other children in their environment. While later bullying is targeted at a small group of children or an individual, potential perpetrators at this stage are still acting in a rather arbitrary manner.
  2. Consolidation: Once the child has found a suitable victim, he or she is regularly attacked during the consolidation phase - this can be both physical and psychological.
  3. Manifestation: If the bullying attacks continue, the damaged child increasingly assumes the role of a victim. Unsettled by the attacks, the victims isolate themselves and also close themselves off from their families. Perpetrators involve other children in the bullying attacks during this phase, so that the victim is no longer exposed to just one but often several "bullying" individuals.

Identify victims

For outsiders, bullying is often difficult to detect. However, there are warning signs that indicate this, that a child victim of bullying has become:

Retreat

Children who are victims of physical and psychological attacks at school withdraw more and more over time. They close themselves off from their parents and increasingly take on a passive role in everyday family life.

Disinterest

Anyone who is continually the victim of harassment in everyday life loses interest in reality over time. Mobbing victims often flee into a fantasy world. Children and young people then start, for example, playing excessive computer games or watching videos in order to escape from everyday life.

Uncertainty

Insecure, fearful behaviour can also be a sign of bullying. Because continuous harassment unsettles the victim, who tries to reduce his external effect to a minimum in order not to attract attention. Especially with children, this behaviour is also evident within the family at some point. They stay out of discussions, react passively to criticism and hold back with their opinion.

refusal to go to school

If your child refuses to go to school or is permanently unwilling to attend classes, parents should ask more closely. Especially if this unwillingness occurs more often and lasts for a longer period of time. Teachers should also take a closer look at the immediate environment of children who give the impression of being permanently afraid or bored.

Physical pain and injuries

Abdominal pain, nausea and headaches, which usually occur during the week, also indicate that the child is exposed to a lot of stress at school. If some children see no other way out than to feign such symptoms, pain can also occur as a result of chronic stress. This is because the fear of further attacks leads to permanent tension in bullying victims. This is followed by typic stress symptomswhich cause physical and psychological harm to the victims. Besides physical symptoms injuries can also be an indication of physical violence. Parents should listen carefully when children cannot or do not want to explain the injuries.

Prevent and stop bullying at school

Whether at school or later at work - mobbing requires quick action from teachers, parents or even superiors.

Preventive measures in kindergarten and school

Especially in kindergarten and school it is important to prevent bullying by means of education. For example, children can be made aware of the consequences of bullying for the victims, when it starts and also how to react as a victim. In this context, it is also important to build children's trust in teachers and educators. Bullying victims often believe that they themselves are responsible for their situation. In a round table discussion on bullying, it is important that caregivers dispel this misunderstanding. Instead of talking to the whole class, measures such as role-playing can also help to prevent bullying. This also gives educators the opportunity to get a picture of the group dynamics outside of "regular" lessons.

Preventive measures for the home

Children who are victims of bullying often have a low self-confidence, an introverted character or differ in some other way from their classmates. Also children who have difficulty interacting with others or socially are more likely to find themselves in such a situation. In order to prevent children from being bullied by others, a respectful and trusting relationship within the family helps:

  • Respectful dialogue: to give children self-confidence, a trusting dialogue within the family is elementary. This also includes recognising children as equal partners in dialogue and responding to their arguments and problems.
  • Interest: Parents should regularly show interest in the life of their child. By actively asking questions, parents and guardians gain a better insight into everyday school life. In this way, problems with classmates can be identified and solved in time. Parents' evenings and consultation hours also help to find out what role the children play in their class.
  • Praise and support: Regular praise also helps to strengthen the self-esteem of children. If something does not work out as planned, it is important to support children in the best possible way.
  • Reconnaissance: Mobbing victims often find it difficult to confide in others. They are ashamed of their situation and are afraid to tell about the bullying attacks or to reveal the names of the perpetrators. In order to avoid such a situation, the subject of bullying should be addressed openly - regardless of whether there is a concrete suspicion or not.

Bullying at school: 9 tips for parents and children

If the worst comes to the worst, it is first and foremost important to act, but to remain calm.

  1. Trust: If there is a suspicion of bullying or if children confide in their parents, it is important to take them seriously and show understanding for the situation.
  2. Keep calm: If your own child is affected, there is a strong desire to contact the offender's parents immediately. However, such an act aggravates the conflict and exposes the victim to an even greater burden.
  3. Contact the right contact person: Instead of contacting the offender's family directly, it is better to contact the class leader first. They act as mediators and can try to prevent assaults during school hours. If the situation worsens or does not improve, help is available from school psychologists or appropriate counselling centres.
  4. Observe social environment: If the child concerned attends a day care centre or afternoon classes, it is also advisable to contact the respective carers and teachers after consultation with the class leader. Describe the situation in as much detail as possible and ask them to keep a closer eye on those involved for a while to prevent further attacks if necessary.
  5. Document bullying actions: In order to solve the conflict and take the right measures, it helps to document bullying attacks in writing. Write down what your child says and pay attention to details: How was bullying? Who was there? When and where was the attack? Were objects damaged? Are there visible injuries? Did someone help and if so, who? Such records are not only important for the parents of the child concerned, but can also help the pedagogical reference person to classify the situation and take appropriate steps.
  6. Train correct behaviour during bullying attacks: Not reacting aggressively, ignoring nasty remarks or boring the perpetrators with indifference - with the right behaviour, affected children can mitigate bullying attacks and thus reduce stress factors.
  7. Don't hit me: Even if it is difficult, encourage your child to NOT fight back when bullied. However, it is of course important that those affected verbally defend themselves. "Stop immediately", "I don't want this", "Stop" - if necessary, practice these sentences together with your child in front of the mirror. Breathing exercises can also help to keep calm during a stressful situation.
  8. Finding solutions together: In order to strengthen the self-esteem of affected children, it is helpful to actively involve them when it comes to finding a solution to end the bullying process as quickly as possible. How does the child react to the attacks? Why could he be bullied? Are other children in the class bullied, etc.? Reflecting on the bullying process together conveys acceptance to the child concerned and helps it to gain more self-confidence.
  9. Looking for new friends: Children with friends are less often victims of bullying. If the child has been excluded from class, it can help to find friends outside their own class or school. For example, those affected can find new friends in sports clubs or music groups.

Text: Natalie Grolig