Sunday 17 December 2017

Is your daughter being bullied... or is she the bully?

Dr James O'Higgins Norman
Dr James O'Higgins Norman

Dr James O'Higgins

Parents often feel powerless to intervene in the peer relationships their daughters create for themselves. Bullying among peers at school can result in long-term social, emotional and psychological effects.

The young person repeatedly bullied at school can experience anxiety, loss of confidence, loneliness and depression. This can result in deteriorating academic attainment, truancy, school drop-out, mental health problems and even ideas of suicide.

There are significant differences between how boys and girls experience and respond to bullying. Girls are more likely to exclude someone through isolation and rumours.

The advent of social media has compounded the problem for parents. Not only are girls more likely to use social media sites, but the way they use them can also differ from boys.

It can be hard for teenage girls to learn to regulate their emotions and to navigate their relationships, so it is good for parents to create an environment in which they can talk about what is going on in their daughters' lives.

Remember that your daughter can be a victim or a bully, so you should look at the school's anti-bullying programme from both perspectives. There are many reasons why teenage girls might not tell their parents they are being bullied. These include fear of reprisal or that the report would not be taken seriously. Young people can also have developed the idea that it is wrong to tell tales.

If you discover that your daughter is being bullied, you should sit down with her to assess the extent of the problem. It is important to talk to her friends to see if they are aware of the problem and are willing to help out. Once you have attained all of the facts, you should speak with the school.

If you are the parent of a daughter accused of bullying, it can be hard not to jump to her defence, but it is better to remember that both bully and victim need support.

It is important to remember that cyberbullying is not primarily a technological issue, but is mainly an interpersonal problem. In the past, young girls' parents taught etiquette to their daughters so that they knew how to appropriately relate to others in society. Maybe it is time for us to apply this old-fashioned idea in cyberspace.

Irish Independent

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