As children reluctantly go back to school, parents are busy preparing for the year ahead.
Textbooks are purchased and uniforms ironed, but what about preparing your kids for something a bit more unpleasant in the school yard—like bullying?
One in five WA high school students don’t always feel safe at school and are afraid of being hurt or bullied, according to a WA Children’s Commissioner report, released this week.
Mental health issues
That’s around 50,000 students across the state, and it’s something parents need to start talking about, Headspace’s Annabeth Bateman says.
The organisation provides free mental health and social support for people aged 12-25, and Ms Bateman says bullying is one of the common reasons young people seek their help.
“It’s a huge issue. Year-to-year almost half of all high school students experience bullying in some form.
“There’s so many different forms it can take these days and it has such a huge impact.”
She says bullying can lead to mental health issues, lack of confidence in adulthood and can affect a student’s performance.
“Having positive relationships is key for a young person engaging in high school, doing well and succeeding,” Ms Bateman says.
She notes that parents can play a big role in helping teens navigate school and bullying, even before it happens, just by starting a conversation.
“The school year has just started, so this is a perfect time for parents to talk to their children…just have a conversation about it and open that door.”
If your teenage child is experiencing bullying, she says it’s important to stay calm, and instead of rushing to fix the problem, listen and allow your child to take charge.
“It can be a really great opportunity for that young person to gain some control of the situation if you make a plan with them,” Ms Bateman says.
“It’s so important that they’re part of that process.
“Bullying takes away a person’s feeling of control and a parent can help give that back.”
Ms Bateman says bullying can be just as overwhelming for a parent as for a child, and the whole family could need support.
“Parenting can be a really tough job and you can’t pour from an empty cup,” she says.
“If you’re not looking after yourself, you don’t have the energy to help look after someone else.”
by EMILEE NEESON