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If you have ever experienced or witnessed bullying as a child, you will know the long-lasting effects it can have. The memories often follow us well into adulthood and the impact on our self-esteem and happiness can leave a lasting mark. For children, who are dealing with a world much wider than perhaps we had as young people, it is vital that we provide opportunities and spaces to tackle this behaviour.

Most young people will come across forms of bullying in their lifetimes, whether online or in person. Equipping children to manage conflict is, therefore, a key life skill. While addressing the route cause of bullying is important, supporting our young people to protect themselves and their friends is an equally worthy skill to learn while growing up.

Creating An Open Environment

Schools do so much work to create safe learning environments for their children. When there is an open door policy and opportunity for children to talk about their feelings, they are more able to express their emotions and call out inappropriate behaviour when they see it. When children feel safe, heard and understood they thrive.

We love to hear about schools who are fostering these kinds of environments. Take a look at this article from the The Education Hub for 5 great ways to do this as a whole school. E-safety, assemblies, a nurturing curriculum and robust policies are all important whole school approaches.

For The Story Project of course, class and group discussions based around books are our favourite way to strengthen and develop children’s resilience, confidence and friendships in the hope that they feel able to deal with bullying themselves.

Recognising Bullying

The first step to help children stand up against bullying is to identify what it is. Helpfully, the Anti-Bullying Alliance has a simple definition that is useful for children, parents and schools alike:

“The repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or online” Anti-Bullying Alliance.

Discussing this definition is a great conversation starter for children. What is the difference between banter and bullying? What does an imbalance of power mean? What might bullying look like? What about protected characteristics? What can we do when we see a friend being bullied?

You, Me and Empathy by Jaydeen Sanders is a great companion to get this discussion going.

Confident Kids

Quiet confidence in ones own self and abilities is one of the biggest secret ingredients to happiness, in our humble opinion. Helping children to understand this and see it in themselves is therefore one of the best ways to fight bullying. We want our children to be proud of who they are!

There are hundreds of books that promote self-confidence, that we struggled to pick just one! One of our favourites has to be How To Be A Lion by Ed Vere. For younger children this enticing story, about a lion called Leonard who likes all the things others tell him he shouldn’t, is a lovely way to introduce this topic. It shows Leonard as a character that is strong and fierce in all the things that really matter.

We particularly like that this story provides a great role-model for boys; Leonard is a thinker, a great friend and a day-dreamer. It flips the out-dated stereotype of male characteristics on its head…and it does so in style.

 

Looking Out For Friends

Possibly the hardest part of anti-bullying is speaking out when something is wrong. This can be tricky terrain for the strongest of adults, so for children it’s important to role-model how advocating for our friends works.

For our primary aged children, it could include:

– Talking to a trusted adult,

– Having a ‘worry monster’ or sharing box in classrooms,

– Asking a friend how they feel,

– Modelling kind friendship behaviours – for example listening, being respectful of others’ views and celebrating friends’ achievements.

Asking the bully to stop is a topic that should be explored carefully – what would this look like in practice? How should children do this safely and confidently?

Luckily, there are some fantastic books that can help navigate this conversation:

The Hundred Dressed by Eleanor Estes – tackles themes of loneliness, discrimination and forgiveness in a sensitive way. This book is perfect for discussions around protected characteristics and bullying.

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet – A beautiful story about a friend who witnesses bullying but is unsure what to do.

Further Reading

Want to find out more about anti-bullying? Here are some helpful resources:

https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/

https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/safeguarding-child-protection/anti-bullying-resources

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