Scenarios like this are so very common in young people’s lives:
Georgina is chatting on messenger to her girlfriends after school. She gets a message from another girl which says, “I thought you were my friend but all you are is a b****”. Georgina replies with a few more choice words and things go back and forth till the wee hours of the morning.
It is often very hard for adults to distinguish the difference between friendship dramas and bullying. To help parents I suggest they use the Queensland Education definition of bullying. Bullying is a systematic abuse of power which is deliberate, consistent and aims to disempower.
In light of this parents should ask themselves these questions:
What is happening?
Who is doing it?
Is it intentional?
Is it happening regularly? How consistently?
Does it aim to exclude, isolate or make your young person feel worthless?
If you answer yes to these questions then your young person may be being bullied.
Parents can also assess bullying on a scale of one to ten. The lower levels of bullying are, although not right, very, very common in a teenager’s world and very difficult to address. You may have to annihilate every teenager alive in order to eradicate this level of bullying. Low level bullying might involve occasional name calling or dirty looks that pass quickly.
Because teenagers are unlikely to tell their parents the extent of the bullying they are experiencing, parents should be watching for these warning signs. Some of these warning signs include:-
Sudden change in personality style – more passive and sad
Sudden change in friendship circle
Sudden loss of confidence
Difficulty answering simple questions about friends
Not wanting to go to school
Feeling generally ‘sick’, increased headaches, general pains, stomach upsets that may be anxiety based
Bullying is always very concerning when a teenager feels helpless against it and is limited in their options to handle it. It is always a big concern when a teenager’s confidence is shattered because of it and they lose their ability to think creatively to get on top of the problem. I always suggest parents help young people put together a bullying dairy in order to assess what is happening and how best to respond to it.
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What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.