Parent Info has partnered with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to offer parents advice and information to help children and young people build confidence and feel good about themselves.
In this article, we look at how bullying outside the home can affect young people’s self-esteem
What were the most common taunts when you were young? ‘Four-eyes’, ‘freckle-face’, ‘tubby’? Most of the names we remember being called as kids are related to looks.
Sadly, not much has changed. A UK Government study by Ofsted called No Place for Bullying  found that today’s pupils most commonly experience bullying related to appearance.
In primary schools, bullies focus on physical traits such as red hair, being tall or small, or ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’. In secondary schools, other aspects of appearance come under attack – clothes, hairstyles and accessories that don't conform to the latest trends.
Girls and boys often disagree, fight, tease and banter with their friends. But bullying is different. According to the US Government’s Stopbullying website, bullying is ‘unwanted, aggressive behaviour among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumours, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.’
What can you do?
- Offer reassurance
Let them know there's nothing wrong with the way they look and you admire what makes them individual.
- Talk about your own experiences
Maybe you were teased about a particular feature growing up, but now recognise it’s part of what makes you special.
- Work together
Help your child understand the reasons why people bully, and work out a strategy together for dealing with the behaviour. Make sure you're in agreement about the steps you plan to take.
- Take The Letter Challenge together.
- Get help with cyberbullying
One of the major differences between online and offline bullying – and one that makes cyberbullying especially insidious – is that victims of cyberbullying have nowhere to hide.
Home, and especially a young person’s bedroom, would have been a sanctuary in the past but now, in the place where he or she should feel most safe, your child is still within a cyberbully’s reach – through a text message, email, social media post or humiliating YouTube video.
Be clear with your child about what cyberbullying is and why it’s wrong. Encourage them to talk to you if they feel it's happening to them or someone they know. Ensure your child has a life that’s offline as well as online. This will give your child respite from any difficulties they’re facing, while positive real-life social experiences help put any negative virtual communication into perspective.
The Letter Challenge
Sometimes it's hard to stand up for ourselves when we're teased or bullied.
Watch the Letter Challenge video [below] with your daughter or son, and then think about how you’d deal with a similar experience by writing a letter to yourselves. You can do the activity together or encourage your child to do it on their own and share it with you afterwards.
How to take The Letter Challenge
1. Think about how you’d feel if you were being bullied and how you would want to respond to a bully.
2. Get a piece of paper and write a letter to yourself, or download The Letter Challenge PDF below. Use the format we’ve laid out and fill in the gaps at the end of each sentence. If you find it hard to think of the words, you could draw how you feel or what you plan to do, like a comic strip.
3. Share your letters with each other and talk about how your child might stand up for themselves if they were being bullied.
4. Help them practise what they might say to a bully in a firm, confident voice, and discuss what they could do if they see someone being bullied.
5. Above all, let them know they don’t have to face bullies, whether real or online, by themselves.
This downloadable pdf contains expert advice from Dove Self-Esteem Project global experts from the fields of psychology, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders and media representation to create a resource for parents that is focused on advice and action. Click on 'Files: Uniquely Me parent guide.pdf' at the foot of the page to download.
Teachers: for free downloadable teaching resources, go to the Dove Self-Esteem Project area on ParentZone.org.uk
This article is brought to you by Parent Zone and the Dove Self-Esteem Project.
Image: public domain, CC0