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Bullying & Beyond…Who cares?

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

 

When you are the victim of bullying, you want people to care about you. You want them to understand how you feel but you behave in the exact opposite way. You pretend you don’t care to protect yourself. You put up a front, isolate yourself and sink further into despair. You believe teachers don’t care and you believe parents don’t care.

What gets in the way of caring? As a mother who has witnessed the impact of bullying on children, here are my guesses why children change their behaviour…

1. Fear that teachers/parents will utter one more disparaging remark about them in front of the other students/siblings.

2. Feeling stupid because they don’t want to be feeling like this but they can’t help it.

3. Feeling frustrated because they feel silenced by bullying.

3. Shame because no matter how much effort they’ve put in, they can’t break the cycle of bullying by themselves.

5. Worry that their resilience is at breaking point and being terrified of what will happen to them if they can’t cope.

6. Feeling worthless because they can see that other students/siblings around them are getting better marks or making progress.

7. Guilt that they are upsetting their teachers/parents and feeling that they are a burden.

Dear Teacher/Parent, please care!  Please look beyond the puzzling behaviour that you, as a teacher or as a parent are seeing and realise that it is an ingenious front.  Please look at the pain this child is in and see what “I don’t care that you don’t care” looks like. Please empower yourself to care by seeking advice, which will help you realise what really matters here, their mental health.

Have you/your child had similar feelings because of bullying?

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

Bullying & Beyond…Beware of Painful Pitfalls

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

 

With the benefit of experience and hindsight here are 6 warning signs to save you these painful pitfalls

 

1.  If you or your child are offered a solution from a teacher or principal saying, “sometimes you have to learn to stand up for yourself,” remember your child is not the only victim of bullying here, you are too. Don’t take it! It’s not a good enough solution!

2.  If your child is starting to miss days from school and this is totally out of character for them be sure to listen to your intuition. Reflect on it. Seek advice and act on it. You might like to read Bullying & Beyond…17. Stand up, speak up!

3.  If well meaning friends knock your intuition and fail to see your child’s mental health warning signs, please, don’t act on their advice to “drag them out of bed and kick them in the butt, straight into school.” You know your child better than any concerned friend. Your child is unable to voice their upset, they are showing you instead…see the signs!

4.  If a teacher tells you at a parent teacher meeting that “sure we all say things” please read between the lines.  They are not admitting the full truth of what was said and your child is too hurt to tell you. Please don’t hold back, immediately ask what they mean! Remind them that their words have the power to empower your child or the power to destroy your child’s last threads of confidence.

5.  If your child is physically and psychologically assault and if they are offered the ‘wise’ advice by a principal to ‘build a high wall & put it all behind you’. Remember this experience is traumatic!  It has denied your child the right to respect. Demand to see the school’s anti-bullying policy. Look for evidence of their bully free zone where high walls won’t be need.

5.  If a person in authority says teachers will be more sympathetic say “I’d prefer empathy thank you,” children need a school that operates from a place of empathy not sympathy.

6.  And finally, if you are told your child needs to be more resilient…stand your ground, look the advice giver in the eye, thank them for their suggestion but leave them in no doubt that your child has been too resilient for too long in an environment that has no obvious signs of safe boundaries or a bully free zone. And then ask them how resilient they’d be in the same environment!

 

Now you’re taking ownership, using your voice and making progress… to ree-create your life beyond bullying!

Has bullying affected you or your children? What painful pitfalls did you experience? What did you learn from it?

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

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Bullying & Beyond…Knowledge is Power!

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of finding and using your voice…Bullying & Beyond…17. Stand up, speak up!

So where can you start?

Start with a confident front, let your child see that you can handle this upsetting situation, even if underneath you are emotionally upset and probably unsure where to begin.

The first thing you can do is quip yourself with information, search the internet, empower yourself through learning.  Remember these three words…”knowledge is power” and knowledge will ensure you are no longer stuck…

Write a list of things you can do, which could include…

1. Contact your child’s class teacher or the teacher your child feels they have a connection with and trust most. Initially make contact by phone or by letter, be discreet, limit your physical contact with the school as your presence may be observed by the bullies and cause repercussions for your child.

2. If the bullying persists, arrange an appointment with the school Principal, again be discreet as in point 1 above.  Have a list or record of bullying events so that you communicate the details accurately and effectively.

3. Consult your General Practitioner for medical support. In Ireland you need a G.P., referral to access Counselling, Psychology or Psychiatric support.

In Ireland you can also…

4. Contact a member of the Board of Management, a member of the Parents Association (most schools have a Parents Association) or the National Parents Council. Read more about NPC here… http://www.npc.ie

5. TUSLA, The Child and Family Agency is now the dedicated State agency responsible for improving wellbeing and outcomes for children. Read more about TUSLA here… https://www.tusla.ie/services/educational-welfare-services/service-strands/the-statutory-educational-welfare-service/

Under the Education (Welfare)  Act, 2000 Educational Welfare Officers (EWOs) of TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency work with young people and their families who are experiencing difficulty with school attendance. Their main priority is around the welfare of children and young people and ensuring that concerns and problems around attendance are addressed before attendance becomes a crisis issue. Read more here… https://www.tusla.ie/services/educational-welfare-services/service-strands/

In schools participating in the Department of Education and Skill’s DEIS initiative (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Educational Welfare Services of the Child and Family Agency have responsibility for operational management of two school-based support services – the Home School Community Liaison Scheme and the School Completion Programme. You might like to read more here… https://www.tusla.ie/services/educational-welfare-services/school-support-services-under-the-deis-initiative/

If you are not getting the answers or support you need, schools in Ireland also have the support of NEPS; the National Educational Psychological Services.

NEPS psychologists work with both primary and post-primary schools and are concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development. They work in partnership with teachers, parents and children in identifying educational needs. Read more about NEPS here…www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/National-Educational-Psychological-Service-NEPS-/NEPS-Home-Page.html

If your school does not inform you of the availability of this service, request that the NEPS Psychologist is contacted or contact them yourself as I did.

NEPS, National Educational Psychological Service https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/National-Educational-Psychological-Service-NEPS-/Information-for-Parents.html

If you or your child are/have been bullied then I would like to hear from you. Was it difficult to find information and the support you needed?

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

Bullying & Beyond… Stand up, speak up!

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

 

 

Your child is or has been bullied at school and you have found an opportunity to talk to them, making a written record of events as you discuss them, without being caught up in frustrating and emotionally upsetting arguments. Now pause to acknowledge the progress you have made, you’ve managed to… 6.Avoid the hook!

You’re now aware and can understand that the changes in behaviour you’ve seen are signs of bullying. Those signs probably included your child;

avoiding situations,
reducing their academic performance,
refusing to go to school,
lacking motivation, wanting to achieve goals but showing perfectionist traits, then appearing paralysed,
disappointed by not living up to the high standards they set themselves,
withdrawing into themselves,
being stressed, having emotional outbursts,
showing signs of anxiety, depression, OCD or specific phobias,
consuming excess alcohol, or maybe using drugs,
getting into trouble in school,
being charged with social disorder,
or engaging in self-harm
then…

If you are like me,
you probably struggle to know what to do.

You are unsure of where to turn next.

You are probably paralysed like we were.

You probably struggled to even accept the situation.

You wanted to wave a magic wand and fix everything…

If any of the above resonates with you, it is very important that you are pro-active. Do not allow bullying to render you paralysed. Your child might not want you to speak up for fear of making the situation worse or been seen as ‘a grass’ or a ‘cry-baby’. You must be very discreet but you must seek out support to help you stand up and speak up to bullying!

In this post I help you list what you can do.  Bullying & Beyond…20 Knowledge is Power!

Have you noticed your child’s behaviour changing? Have you struggled to understand the changes you’ve noticed.  Can you see it from a different perspective now?

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

Bullying & Beyond…Loneliness

 

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

 

In my previous post I wrote about the importance of self-care, you might like to read it 4.Self-care x 10! When you or your children are struggling to cope with bullying it is very important to continue to practice self-care during and after the event.   Being bullied can cause strong feelings of loneliness which come from the isolation of bullying. Bullying thrives on isolation and fear. Lack of access to information, lack of support and worse still lack of knowing which way to turn or who to ask for help all serve to enhance the isolation and loneliness you feel!

The loneliness was something I found hardest to cope with as I struggled to find answers and effective support.

But there is help out there.  Don’t allow yourself to be rendered voiceless.

So I want YOU to know that I am here for YOU and YOU are not alone…reach out, share your concerns and talk about the bullying you or your child are experiencing.

What has been your experience of the loneliness of bullying?  How would you describe the loneliness of bullying?  How did you overcome it?

Much love,

Mindfully Marie xx

 

 

Bullying & Beyond… Sympathy?

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

When dealing with bullying, empathy is key as shared in Bullying & Beyond… 11. Resilience.

Another hurdle we faced when trying to search out help for our son was the problem of sympathy.  We were told by a responsible adult, that our son would be dealt with in a more “sympathetic” way.

Children, just like our son, who are being bullied, need to know that others care about them and are sorry about what they are going through.

Some children, particularly boys and teenagers might be embarrassed by being in the spot-light receiving sympathy.  They may not want others feeling sorry for them.

Sympathy while supportive can reinforce a child’s belief that there is something wrong with them and can make a child worry that they are at fault.  It may take the locus of blame off the bully, where it rightly lies. Too much sympathy can compound feeling of helplessness and of being powerless.

I believe that every child, be they a bully or bullied… need sympathy backed up by action.

My trust and respect was weakened when I asked one adult in a position of responsibility, if they had ever seen a case like our son’s, as he had been struggling with school not just in the short term but over the majority of his time in secondary school and I was amazed to receive a resounding “No.” This answer exemplified the fractured and broken school system that enabled bullying to flourish.

I believe the solution lies in education for all involved, including regular professional development opportunities to raise awareness of the short and long-term effects of bullying.

Did you or your child receive sympathy, how did it make you feel? Were you able to access competent, professional support when needed?

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

 

Bullying & Beyond… Painting the pain, part three.

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

 

As hard as I’ve tried, I can’t paint the pain of bullying experienced by our son because the canvas is blank and will remain blank as our son, kept almost all of the painful details to himself.

What I can paint is what we as parents noticed at home, which included, his frustration shown through nasty comments and angry outbursts. His loss of interest in his hobbies. His withdrawal into himself. His sleep pattern changed dramatically, unable to get to sleep resulting in him sleeping longer into the morning and soon he developed insomnia.   He was awake at night and asleep during the day.   We slowly noticed a real change in his pleasant and warm personality.    All these changes led to self-isolation and school refusal.

We stood by helplessly, watching our warm, outgoing, resilient child slowly disengage from all aspects of his normal functioning life.

This did not happen over-night. Being bullied was something that chipped away at his resilience and eventually over years, wore him down.

Every child, no matter their age, sex, nationality, colour or faith is entitled to attend school, to feel happy and included. They deserve to achieve, to the best of their ability, without the fear of bullying and its devastating effects.

The pain of his upset is still visceral as I recall and share these memories.  It hurts because I realise, yet again, that the sheer frustration and powerlessness we felt came from feeling unheard in a broken system.  This feeling of isolation compounded the impact bullying was having on our family.  This post might help you gain a further insight ACCEPTANCE

Thankfully we have, as a family and individually, empowered ourselves to move forward whilst not diminishing the pain of the past. But instead wanting to put our learning to the service of others.  You might like to read our son’s attitude, Bullying…”I am grateful for it all”…

Have you or your children experienced bullying?  Did it wear down your child’s resilience? Did it render you silent and make you feel powerless?

I would love to hear your experience so that together we can let other families know that they are not alone.

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

Hello from Ireland!

Hello Norway,

Welcome on board! And thank you…

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Welcome to Create Space http://www.ree-creates.com

 

Actually, I’d like to take a minute or two to thank everybody!

I won’t start naming Countries or individual names because you know I mean you, and all because you stopped in to visit and share such kind and encouraging words this past week, since Andy joined our family.

The thing is you will never know how much of a difference your words have made to both myself and Emma!

And of course to Andy…as you can see he’s under so much pressure!

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I don’t know what we’d do without those frequent “dog-naps!”

 

Emma has just started an Instagram account and she would love you to visit her and Andy @reallyhandyandy where she will document and share their journey towards improved mental health and where she hopes to fulfill her dream and goal of paving the way towards the availability of Psychiatric Service Dogs in Ireland.

This post explains in more detail… Bullying & Beyond… 10.Painting the Pain, part two.

Do you have a dog or other amazing pet? What difference does your pet make to your life? Have you heard of Psychiatric Service Dogs?

With heartfelt wishes,

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

Bullying & Beyond… Painting the Pain, part one.

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Time and the right conditions not only preserve but bring about something of beauty – Marie Clancy.

Trigger Warning – Bullying, upsetting read, almost 1.9k word count and only a synopsis of our story.

If I could paint a picture of the pain of bullying I would because a picture can say much more than any amount of words. But I hope my words can help you understand young lives tainted, damaged and almost destroyed by bullying.

Begin by taking a nice relaxing breath and feel the peace and contentment of a happy life…Just breath.

Now I add two children and we see the eldest overcome some challenges, such as being shy, a characteristic of many first children.  Because of relocating, we support her through changing school after one year.  Our youngest child began life weighing 2lb 9oz and was the best Christmas present we brought home, that Christmas, three months after he was born and daily drives one hour each way.  Now laugh with us and imagine the relief of a diagnosis of full health for him at the age of one. No heart murmur. No lung deficiency. No eye sight problems as predicted. We feel proud and happy as we watch him run into school without a backward glance, loving all the new activity and company.

Journey with us as we take another relaxing breath and practice gratitude for two happy, healthy children aged five and seven. Following our heart, values and beliefs we raise them to be loving and kind; to watch out for the welfare of others and to go out of their way to be inclusive and help others feel they belong.  Ironic really how the tables turn on us.

Now picture the knot in my stomach as I notice things begin to change… see a tummy bug that needed a few days hospitalisation leave its mark on Emma.  Notice her upset going to school, lunch not eaten. Hear her tell stories of her lunch being taken on her.  Hear her recount tales of constant name calling, jibing and mocking. Feel her pain as they make fun of her prominent teeth and her love of galloping around the playground instead of running because of her infatuation with horses. Approach the teacher. Get reassurances of an eye on the matter.  Confront a young boy’s carer for his bullying of her on the school bus.  Get more reassurances.

Soon we notice the tears, bitter tears of being excluded by one or two girls. We watch as more of her circle follow their lead and she’s left feeling frustrated and lonely.  School anxiety starts to develop, tears and tummy aches rack her body and people mindlessly comment how thin she is.  We see her push her food around her plate…and then around some more. We are at a loss for what to do as family trips to cafes or restaurants become a nightmare.

Soon separation anxiety develops as I carry her into school and peel her off me, as I try to reassure her that today will be better; the children will be lovely and friendly.

Add in lots of GP visits, referrals to counsellors, psychotherapy and meetings with teachers. I feel my own health deteriorate as I battle to cope with fibromyalgia.  We watch homework suffering and educational milestones not being achieved. I listen as I’m advised by school staff to have an educational assessment done but in the same breath advised that I’ll have to pay and arrange it privately, again unsupported as the government only fund two per year and more disadvantaged children in her school need it. See some school supports come onboard, extra learning support and confidence building.  Pay for a second Educational Psychologist’s report, needed before she enters secondary school, to access extra support there. Watch her adjust well to secondary school, relatively happy during 1st year with no supports offered or thankfully needed.

Feel the kick in my gut as Emma’s happy 1st year turns into an upset 2nd year and a return to more of the same.  Bullying begins again with more tears, more anxiety, more loneliness and exclusion.

We try to find opportunities that build Emma’s confidence and self-esteem.  We send her to pottery classes and see her flourish and then watch as even in the privacy of her own home she is a victim, as we laugh and enjoy the company of relatives over Christmas, she is hounded online. We witness her stress as two girls send texts with nasty, abusive messages. We contact the Gardaì and find there’s not much we can do.  We change her phone sim.

First day back after Christmas we advise the school in case she should be targeted by these girls in person. We receive a phone call from the school.  We are told that the two girls are reprimanded. Later I listen in shock when I’m summoned to the school to collect our emotionally upset child having been physically attacked, dragged to the floor by her hair and kicked and punched by one of the girls on the school premises. See the nasty black and blue bruise leave its mark on her skin, knowing full well the ongoing abuse is leaving its nasty tentacles entwined even deeper within. Read horrible lies posted about her on a social media site to slander and ridicule her.  We later find out the girl had a crush on a boy Emma was friendly with.  We approach the parents. We are kind, we ask for respect, we say we won’t involve the law.

In the meantime we watch her so upset and frightened at home, refusing school for weeks.  Myself and Emma listen as we are told by school staff to “build a wall and put it all (the bullying & assault) behind you.” and we support her decision to change school.  We feel our own stress levels increase.  We grasp moments of self-care but stress and fibromyalgia don’t make for a good mix as I struggle to keep positive and find solutions.

We breath another huge, relaxing breath as she flourishes in her new school.  She tells us she feels accepted, she feels part of the group. She no longer feels isolated.  We see her take on new experiences and even a school adventure trip for five days away from home.

I gag and dry-retch, I choke and sufficate, imagining how she felt when they poured water down her throat while she slept; minding her own business, doing no harm to anyone!

I almost reach cracking point as I see her retreat into herself, go to school and get phone calls to bring her home sick.  One boy begins bullying her on the school bus.  It’s more than she can handle.  We forfeit the fee. I drive her to school and then drive to work.  We face more GP visits, psychological appointments, lots of time and energy draining travel as we again face point blank school refusal. This school has a Home School Liaison Officer and I feel relieved to get some help with mountains of paperwork to obtain home school hours and Emma achieves her Leaving Certificate despite all the torment and abuse.

Years later Emma, and then I, get messages from the bully who physically asaulted her, telling of her regret, her distress, her depression, anxiety and attempted suicide because of what she did. When I receive the message, I am taken off guard and feel a horrific and tangible need to rip that bully apart but instead I hear our amazing daughter Emma say how she has forgiven her…I breath deeply as I read the bully’s messages telling me she was bullied previously and was afraid of being bullied again.  She admitted to portraying a tough image by being a bully to prevent further bullying of herself.  That day I learned a lesson in compassion and I tell the girl it’s ok, don’t worry, access supports, do well in college, stay in touch.

I try not to think about the other bullies who verbally asaulted and excluded Emma but have never had the guts to apologise.  Again we offer it up, practice forgiveness and wish them peace and progression.  We have to in order to find peace and progression ourselves.

And later still we witness the distress, we see the anxiety, the new courses; some completed some not.  We got phone calls from Emma, living away from home while in further courses telling of her panic attacks.  We drive many times to comfort her.

We see her anxiety peak again and watch as her clothes become too big, knowing the anxiety grips her throat and messes with her appetite.  We see her busy herself baking and sculpting, trying to ward off the omni-present anxiety, creating things of beauty and we remind ourselves that unfinished courses, a career or thoughtless people who never ask how she is doing but instead ask “what’s she doing with herself” don’t matter one bit and we listen as those parents proceed to recount how their daughter, her peers, her bullies both active and passive, excel and achieved their third level qualifications.

We watch her as she reaches out for help and is told it’s five weeks to see a Counsellor – pathetic public Irish healthcare service.  A mix up because I’m busy coping with my own health and trying to work and her difficulty managing her timetable see her inadvertently miss that five week awaited appointment.  We all feel frustrated when a phone call can’t reschedule her appointment and we are told her file is closed and she is referred back to her GP.  She has to book another GP appointment and must request another letter of referral to a Counsellor from her GP.  We practice patience, encourage, hold her and reassure her…soon the help will come.

We see her eat less, fit size 6 clothes and yet her spirit fights on.  We both marvel as she learns Dutch with her phone app. We admire how she lobbies every politician for a service dog, unheard of in Ireland but which might just enable her complete a new course by helping her ward off panic attacks on the train.

We share that story here

We encourage her as she appeals to the welfare system for a companion pass so one of us could travel with her on the train. We try hard again to practice and encourage patience as she waits in hope that a human being will pass her application.  But even when it’s refused for a second time we remind ourselves that she doesn’t need a travel pass as she barely manages a half hour drive to numerous appointments each week without us having to pull in and stop the car to help her contain the panic she feels.  She has a driving licence but driving is not an option for her at present.

So what can we do?  We do the best we can do.  We trust it will all work out.  We believe in her.  We just love her and we admire her amazing resilience because we know any of those bullies would have crumbled under the strain years ago.

Oh and by the way, that’s just what was going on for our daughter. Our son was bullied too… but he hid it from us for a long time, instead he showed us his insomnia and isolation.  We believe he tried to save us the additional pain of more bullying.  I initially tried to share that story in Bullying & Beyond… Painting the pain, part three.

If you think this could help anyone who was or is a victim of bullying realise that they are not alone, please feel free to share. If you have been told by your school that your child was or is a bully, please consider the pain they have or are causing. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Le grà,

Mindfully Marie xx

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