Social skills against bullying

Is your child bullied at school?

When a child says that the behaviour or words of another are offensive, it must always be discussed. It is also important to discuss any possible bad things that have occurred during the day and any emotions related to these happenings. By means of discussions, the child learns different perspectives and can gain methods to act in similar situations in the future. The child must have confidence that he/she can talk about the slightest concerns with adults, so that it is easy to ask for help, even when bigger and more serious issues are faced. Sometimes the child does not tell anyone about being bullied. He/she may be ashamed of the situation and think that no one, not even an adult, can do anything about it. In this case, for example, the child’s changed behaviour may be a sign of bullying.

Signs of bullying

• The child refuses to go to school, or suddenly loses interest in school attendance
• School motivation weakens, grades change
• The child is no longer interested in school or family activities
• The child is sad or angry after receiving a phone call, text message or e-mail
• He/she does or says something that’s not like him/her
• The child has psychosomatic stress symptoms such as pain conditions, general ill-health or sleeping difficulties

Help your child to defend him-/herself

The child may not be fully protected from bullying, but he/she can be taught in advance how to act in possible bullying situations and cope with them. Experts recommend that adults teach children to defend themselves against bullying in advance.

1. Check your own attitude

Parent attitudes and feelings of the child and his/her hearing disability affect the development of the child’s self-awareness and self-esteem. If a parent is anxious or unsure of their child’s disability, the child can sense it and think that there is something wrong with him/her. It is important for a child to sense that he/she is a whole in his/her own right. Then he/she can understand, when being bullied, that the fault is not in him/her. It is the bully’s problem.

2. Teach your child about friendship and help to develop friend skills

Friendships can be complicated. For some children it can be difficult to distinguish between encouraging friendships and relationships that have different motives. It is worth talking about friendships at home. Help your child understand what friends do and what they do not do. Find out who are your child’s friends. Invite them to your home and see how they talk and play with each other. At home, the child can practice social skills in a familiar environment. Find your child opportunities to develop friendships outside of school, for example, in different activity groups and hobbies.

It is good to remember that friends and family members often tease each other in good nature. Emphasis, body postures and facial expressions distinguish benign and malign teasing from each other. A deaf child can find it difficult to read social cues and determine what is bullying and what is not. Determining social situations can be practiced with the child through play. Speak in a friendly and then a mean voice. Then, explain what the difference is between the two. You can practice together, what the child could reply to the bully.

According to studies, bullied children may have weaker social skills. The ability to listen forms the ability for social skills, and often hearing impaired children need practice in listening. A hearing impairment can reduce interacting in situations, where social skills could be practiced.

A child should learn to take turns in discussions, ask questions from others, defend themselves, engage in “small talk” and to praise others. The child may also find it difficult to read other people’s facial expressions and gestures, and he/she may be unsure of his/her own expressions. Practice with your child at home. You can practice expressions with him/her in front of the mirror: for example, he/she can make an expression, which describes the respective emotion (joy, sorrow, enthusiasm). You can also practice your body language by thinking about how you go to a new group and look friendly. The child may be reminded that, for example, the easiest way to join a new group is to smile and show interest in others.

3. Advise how you can respond to bullies

Language can be a hearing impaired child’s weakness. It is therefore important to instruct children, how hearing loss can be explained to others. Teach your child a few sentences, which he/she can use if someone teases. They help him/her to trust themselves more. Practice together to say NO or STOP. The use of the words should first be practiced together with a parent. Seek out a quiet place at home where the two of you can be alone without others interfering. NO and STOP help to tell others that something that is done to oneself is not liked. If you feel threatened, you can use them.

Words can be practiced by standing in front of a mirror or a family member. Initially, you can take a deep breath and say NO or STOP in a loud and assertive manner. Then, it can be said in a louder and deeper voice. After practicing, the word should be used in real-life situations. Then you can look back at how NO was said when practicing and then use it when being mistreated.

4. Encourage your child to have confidence in themselves

Encourage the child to have confidence in themselves and their opportunities. The child’s self-esteem soars when he/she knows he/she is more than just a hearing impaired person. The impairment is part of him/her, but it does not define him/her completely. He/she may be brilliant at parkour, gifted in mathematics or come along very well with animals. The child can be encouraged to think about their good sides, if someone teases. You can make, for example, a good mood poster together. Find a photo in which the child is satisfied and happy. Glue the photo on a piece of paper. Write other people’s encouraging, nice and supportive comments around the photo. Also make a list of things in which the child is good and talented.

The finished poster can be put in a prominent location.

 5. Make a plan against bullying

Talk with your child about bullying. Tell him that some people might say or do evil things. Make a plan of what you will do when bullying occurs. Encourage the child to tell an adult about bullying. He/she is good to have a safe and reliable adult, whose help can be relied on. If the child tells an adult about bullying and it is discussed together, he/she copes with the bullying better than those who do not tell anyone.