Coping and helping build resilience

Thursday, 02 Jul 2020


It seems as though hardly a week goes by where there is not reference in the media to ‘bullying’. Certain incidents that are reported to have occurred in the medical field and in other places of work are the most obvious. There have also been some atrocious cases of young people filming each other as they have been in attack mode outside of school. Many people today recall the bullies from their school days and still feel traumatised. As one would expect, most schools have in place policies and procedures for dealing with the more pernicious aspects of bullying be that cyber-bullying or traditional playground occurrences. However, a word of caution needs to be inserted into the perennial conversation. Bullying, by definition, is typically repetitive, involves some form of power imbalance, it will be covert or overt and there will be a sense of oppression experienced by the target. (See  http://bullyingnoway.gov.au/  for definitions, parent advice etc). 

When isolated incidents take place, this is not ‘bullying’. This is not uncommon and children often learn from dealing with benign incidents that take place. It appears that more and more parents make reference about bullying when in fact what has taken place was an isolated incident. The teachers spend considerable time investigating only to find that the incident has passed and that it was not worthy of the time and effort investigating. At times, some parents are too ready to appropriate the language that you would normally find in TV dramas – “attacked” / “my child was physically assaulted” / “physically and verbally abused” – which is all quite melodramatic but a total misrepresentation. When this language is used I wonder if I am a prison warden. If a little child tells another that she is ‘out’ when playing handball, this is not ‘verbal abuse’. 

It is better to be specific about the nature of the incident (“someone said something nasty”, “he grabbed his arm”) which we would then understand is not so indicative of a high level criminal activity, but more indicative of an innocuous, isolated incident. Did playground incidents occur when you were a child? Most people would answer “of course”. The school’s policy in dealing with bullying is comprehensive and well-stated. It is important to keep in mind that incidents do take place and that is part of growing up and learning to deal with people. We will certainly know if this spills over into ‘bullying’. Using exaggerated, melodramatic language doesn’t help the child or teachers deal with the multiple situations that arise throughout the year.

And it certainly does not help the child to build the coping skills required by all of us as we negotiate incidents and events on a daily basis. We all need to work on developing our children’s coping skills (resilience) which allows them to bounce back. Here is what one Michael Gross article references when it comes to how we question or discuss incidents with our children: 

1. “Come on, laugh it off.” Strategy: humour. Good for: kids who experience disappointment, failure and even loss.

2. “Don’t let this spoil everything.” Strategy: containing thinking. Good for: kids who feel overwhelmed; kids who experience rejection; perfectionists

3. “Let’s take a break.” Strategy: distraction. Good for: kids experiencing stressful situations; kids who think too much; kids with busy lives.

4. “Who have you spoken to about this?” Strategy: seeking help. Good for: kids who experience bullying and social problems; handling all types of personal worries.

5. “I know it looks bad now, but you will get through this.” Strategy: offering hope. Good for: kids experiencing loss, bullying, change or extreme disappointment.

6. “What can you learn from this, so it doesn’t happen next time?” Strategy: positive reframing. Good for: kids who make mistakes, let others down or experience personal disappointment

7. “Don’t worry – relax and see what happens!” Strategy: acceptance. Good for: kids who worry about exams or performing poorly in any endeavour; pessimists.

8. “This isn’t the end of the world” Strategy: maintaining perspective. Good for: kids who catastrophise or blow things out of proportion.

9. “You could be right. But have you thought about … ” Strategy: flexible thinking. Good for: kids who catastrophise; experience extreme feelings; who exaggerate.

10. “What can we do about this?” Strategy: taking action. Good for: kids who mope; who experience disappointment; who feel inadequate.

(A reminder that we are a Parenting Ideas school and each week we post in the Newsletter an article from the Parenting Ideas team.)

 



 


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