Lithuania’s bullying rate is one of the highest in Europe – more than a quarter of teenagers are bullied, according to the Children’s Health and Lifestyle Survey. “Children’s line” psychologist dr. Jurgita Smiltė Jasiulionė is convinced that one of the biggest problems is the normalization of bullying. In communities where the problem is negative, children are very likely to suffer from lack of support and access to appropriate help, so responding to bullying and educating school communities is critical.
“Children’s Line” counselors often hear children’s complaints about “invisible” bullying, the lack of reaction of adults, and that inappropriate behavior is the child’s own fault. Psychologist dr. Jurgita Smiltė Jasiulionė provides recommendations on how to act for teenagers, teachers and parents in case of bullying.
Bullying is hard to spot, so it’s important to recognize the signs and respond.
“A change in a teenager’s emotional state, different behavior, a desire to isolate themselves socially, withdrawal, sudden mood swings, anxiety, depression or irritability can indicate that something is happening in their life. Therefore, it is necessary to react and invite the teenager for a conversation”, says Dr. JS Jasiulione.
According to the psychologist, a child or teenager who has faced bullying may try to control the situation by himself immediately after the incident.
“The victim can walk away from the incident and watch what happens next. Sometimes the manifestations of humiliating behavior are one-time and if you do not get involved in the situation and stop contact with the bullies in time, you can avoid the repetition of such behavior. However, if a teenager encounters bullying not for the first time and becomes a deliberately chosen target of the abuser, it is important that he always knows that he has the right to look for someone with whom he can “step” together in the help process”, says psychologist JS Jasiulionė.
2. Seek help from adults
The psychologist is firmly convinced that adults at school and at home play a very large and important role in stopping bullying.
“At school, first of all, teachers and other school employees have the responsibility to recognize and respond to bullying; at home, parents should pay attention to the child’s changed behavior or emotional state,” explains Dr. Jurgita Smiltė Jasiulionė.
Although teenagers usually don’t want to ask adults for help and try to manage the situation themselves, in case of bullying, teenagers should find a reliable person in their environment with whom they can talk about how to behave or simply ask for help.
“This person can be a parent, an older friend at school, a student support specialist or a teacher. The most important thing is that a child who has faced bullying does not remain alone” – encourages the psychologist of “Vaikai lijna” to seek help.
3. Talk to a teenager
If parents suspect possible bullying at school, it is very important that they talk to the teenager, but the conversation should be prepared.
“First of all, think about the course of the conversation, find a suitable time and place to make the conversation as private as possible. At the beginning of the interview, it is very important to clearly state why you decided that there is some change in the child’s life and that there is something wrong with him. You can start the conversation with the words “I noticed” and say what you noticed, “and I want to ask you if everything is okay, because from what I noticed, I realized that something is happening in your life and I want to understand what,” says JS Jasiulione.
According to her, it is important to realize that a teenager may not want to talk because it is too difficult for him, he is afraid of scaring or disappointing his parents. In this case, parents can choose several tactics.
“Teenagers are generally reluctant to share their emotions, but if parents have even the slightest suspicion, they should find a way to talk to them. You can say that you can see that your child is having trouble talking, but still care about what is going on and ask when we can talk, or say that you are worried, that you have a feeling that something is wrong at school, and that you are going to call the class educators or teachers and ask more about it. Most of the time, this is enough and the teenager tells himself,” the psychologist urges other adults to seek help.
4. Take further action
“Children’s line” psychologist dr. Jurgita Smiltė Jasiulionė advises parents to gather all the facts about what is happening and to seek help from other adults at school.
“If you hear the fact that your child is being bullied, take your time and find out the whole situation: who is bullying, when it happens, whether the child told someone about it at school, whether the teachers know, whether they reacted, etc. And ask the teenager “I would like to help, how can I help you”. It is very important to coordinate actions with the teenager himself and take into account his wishes. Then act according to the situation and think about how you should act, what other adults to use. If the teenager gives his consent, it is very important not to remain silent, to seek help from the school staff and to consult with everyone together about what the help plan could be, what actions the school, teachers, and parents could take,” says the psychologist.
5. Constantly educate the entire school community
Dr. According to Jurgita Smiltė Jasiulionė, it is very important for the school to have a certain vision and plan, how it deals with the problem of bullying, what actions are implemented, how education of each member of the school community is taken care of, so that everyone knows how to act in case of bullying.
“All members of the school community must participate in the bullying prevention program: teachers, administrative staff, employees of the economic part, students, parents. It is mandatory to teach everyone how to recognize and respond to bullying, distinguish between a one-time conflict and repeated misbehavior. It is very important that not only teachers know how to react, but also other school employees, because bullying often takes place in the yard, lobby or cafeteria. Students should know what they can do themselves and who to turn to for help. Education is also necessary for parents who see children outside of school, hear their stories about what happens at school, shape children’s behavior by setting certain limits,” says psychologist JS Jasiulionė.
The “Head&Shoulders” brand of the manufacturer “Procter&Gamble” contributes to the prevention and stopping of bullying in Lithuanian schools, and from August 15 to September 18, it runs the support campaign “Shoulders up”. During it, the amount of EUR 0.36 will be allocated to “Vaikai Linija” for each H&S product purchased. The collected funds will be used to provide bullying response training for teachers and school staff in Lithuanian schools.
Gerda Varnelytė, PR Service
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