Parenting for resilience

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We are all tested by bullying at some stage in our lives. Julie Robinson of ISC offers some suggestions, and appropriate strategies, to help your child cope if encountering bullying at school.

As parents, we can be ultra-sensitive about anything that hurts our children's feelings and it is easy (for all the right reasons) to tend towards over-protection. We must take care to ensure that children have every opportunity and freedom to develop as independent agents. Learning to cope for themselves with a range of behaviours is vital to developing social resilience so that they are able to operate confidently when she or he encounters bullying behaviour.

Safeguarding policies now include 'peer-on-peer abuse' as it is recognised that sometimes cruel behaviour is exhibited between children. If your child is exposed to such behaviour, you will want s/he to be able to discuss the experience as well as to become well-equipped to deal with it. Effective responses to potential bullying can mean that your child grows up able to set personal boundaries, avoid potentially abusive relationships and recognise acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, while maintaining a confident self-image.

Children need to know they must speak to a teacher, or their parents, whenever bullying happens. For this, young people need to feel that they can trust adults implicitly. Sometimes it will be necessary to support quietly in the background without taking overt action – coaching from the sidelines and helping children to learn to deal with difficult situations for themselves. This is counter-intuitive for many parents but intellectually we know that it is our job to help youngsters develop into independent adults and we cannot fight their battles for them (much as we might wish to).

Julie Robinson is Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Schools Council (ISC).