The Fostering Network is a member of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum.
The Anti-Bullying Week 2017 theme this year is "All Equal, All Different, and All Together". It aims to support schools and youth organisations to celebrate difference and diversity; bring children and young people together to celebrate what makes them and others unique; and help create welcoming and inclusive environments both off and online for children and young people.
As part of Anti Bullying Week, The Fostering Network is raising awareness among foster and kinship foster carers on how they can support the children they are looking after, if they are affected by bullying incidents or behaviour.
What is bullying?
The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum defines bullying as: the repeated use of power by one or more persons intentionally to hurt, harm or adversely affect the rights and needs of another or others
If the child you are looking after is being bullied or you think they might be, here are some tips on how to talk to them and help prevent further bullying.
Know what bullying can look like
There are many ways that a child can be bullied by others:
- Being called nasty names, teased, made fun of, threatened or put down.
- Having rumours or gossip spread about you or people talking about you behind your back.
- Being left-out, excluded or isolated.
- Being forced to do something you don’t want to do or know that is wrong.
- Physical bullying can involve: Being hit, kicked, punched, tripped up or knocked over.
Having belongings stolen or damaged.
Bullying online or ‘cyberbullying’ is the latest manifestation of how children can experience bullying. The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum describes cyberbullying as: Bullying that takes place through electronic technologies such as mobile or smart phones, smart phone apps, social network websites and gaming consoles.'
It is also important to know that bullying is not:
- A disagreement or ‘falling-out’
- A one-off fight or argument
- Someone being ‘nasty’ through an ill thought through word or action
A ‘relationship’ issue where pupils just need to learn how to get along better
What you can do
- Raise any concerns you may have with the child’s social worker and / or your own supervising social worker.
- Explain to the child you are looking after, that the bullying is not their fault and together you will sort this out..
- Bullying is never acceptable; and should always be taken seriously.
- Support the child you are looking after and work together. Put together a plan and think of the steps to take and the skills they have to help sort out the situation. Make sure you always keep them informed about any actions you decide to take.
- Try and establish the facts. It can be helpful to keep a diary of events. If the bullying is online, save or copy images and text.
- If the bullying incident occurs at school contact the class teacher or year head to raise your concerns with school in a calm manner-keeping to the facts about what has happened to the child you are looking after. Agree with school what can be implemented to address these concerns. Follow up this meeting in writing. Ask for a review meeting in 2-4 weeks with school, to ensure there has been some action taken to address the bullying.
- Identify strategies that might help children / young people deal with the situation, rehearse how they might respond in given situations for example how they could respond to children that are bullying them (for example: 'I don’t like it when you say that to me / do that to me. Stop.'); show them how to block or unfriend people if the bullying is online and help them identify other friends or adults that can support them.
Encourage the child you are looking after to get involved in activities that build their confidence and self esteem and help them to form friendships outside of school (or wherever the bullying is taking place).
Remember - As a foster carer it is important for you to ensure the child feels safe. This may involve you acting as their advocate at school. It is important that you keep yourself informed and that you share any worries or concerns with the relevant people. Try to ensure that the child or young person is helped to develop coping strategies and that they feel supported throughout the process. If you are worried about a bullying incident, you may find it helpful to talk to someone about it such as the child’s social worker, and /or your own supervising social worker,before deciding what action to take .