Appearance related bullying

Children often say they are bullied for how they look.  This might include bullying behaviour targeted at children with acne and psoriasis. Children can also be targeted over their teeth, hair, and body shape and size, particularly if a child is seen as larger, smaller, or taller.  This type of bullying can be really tough to experience.  School staff may be reluctant to address it or be unsure how to challenge it without drawing further attention to the situation.

Supporting your child with appearance related bullying

Here are our tips for supporting your child with appearance related bullying: 

  1. Tell them it is not their fault.  It’s never okay to bullying someone else. If your child is experiencing bullying related to their appearance, the school should take it just as seriously as any other form of bullying behaviour. Reassure your child that it’s not their fault, and that you’re going to deal with this together. 
  2. Focus on the positives. Your child may find it very difficult to look past the comments but help them focus on everything they love about themselves and all the many things that make up who they are. They may find it helpful to take part in a Kidscape ZAP workshop to learn assertiveness skills and techniques for handling bullying situations. 
  3. Help them find a community. They may feel alone, but they’re not! Help them meet other children who may be in a similar situation. It’s also important to remind them that true friends won’t make you feel bad about yourself.  Help them focus on the people in their lives that love them for who they are. It can also be helpful to let family members know that they’re going through a tough time so they can give them additional encouragement and support (and avoid saying anything that will make them feel worse at this time). 
  4. It won’t always be like this.  The school years can be a very tough time, and you can help your child to focus on their hopes and dreams and positive activities they can take part in to work towards their future goals. This can also help them make friends outside of school and feel part of a wider community. 
  5. Role model! Make sure you are not reinforcing negative attitudes about appearance by making comments about your own looks, or the looks of others. As a family take part in activities that help build self-confidence without focussing on appearance (e.g., taking part in fun and/or new activities, socialising with others, trying out different sports, spending time outside, taking care of a pet). 
  6. Watch out for peer pressure As children grow older and spend more time online, it’s likely they will be overloaded with images and videos of ‘perfect’ people. It’s important to help your child understand that those images are usually filtered and that they don’t represent real life. Encourage them to follow people who celebrate body positivity and diversity. 

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