Real Lives, Real Stories
"My daughter eventually admitted that she had been having some difficulties with her friend in school, which included excluding her at break times, and comments that were slowly chipping away at her confidence. Seeing Chloe sob like that just broke me as parent. I too was physically bullied in primary school (the same school!) and that was horrible, but as a parent watching your child go through it is just awful."
I have a very close relationship with my daughter and always encourage her to talk to me if she’s upset or worried about anything. Chloe had always been one to bottle her feelings at times, but she had otherwise always been quite happy. She had started to become more and more withdrawn and had found it difficult to sleep over recent weeks. When she came out of school she would just explode with rage, shouting, screaming and lashing out, which was totally out of character for her. We knew that something was going on but trying to get her to tell us was something else.
My daughter eventually admitted that she had been having some difficulties with her friend in school, which included excluding her at break times, and comments that were slowly chipping away at her confidence. Seeing Chloe sob like that just broke me as parent. I too was physically bullied in primary school (the same school!) and that was horrible, but as a parent watching your child go through it is just awful. This had originally started in reception and school had been aware of this from the start, but instead of being resolved as there hadn’t been any continuation of follow-up once it had been dealt with, it just escalated and the perpetrator had become more manipulative in their approach. I was devastated for her.
The bullying had been happening for a while, but Chloe was a very compliant pupil and didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, so she said nothing. The girl would make fun of the way she ran and would say cruel things to her. We had previously enrolled Chloe into some activities that she loved, to make new friends outside of school, yet her confidence had been chipped away so much that her self-esteem was on the floor. Despite a lot of encouragement from us for her to continue, she soon dropped out of the activities that she had loved so much.
I immediately contacted the school again via email so that I would have a record of the conversation, but their response didn’t fill me with confidence that they would sort it as they immediately put it down to petty arguments between friends, even though at this point it had been two years of ‘petty arguments.’ They let Chloe stay inside at lunchtime and arranged for some in-school counselling, but I felt that was just excluding her further rather than dealing with the problem. I volunteered for everything I could in school, just so I could be closer to Chloe, and she would have an opportunity to tell me anything she needed to during the day and to offer her some reassurance, but the bullying didn’t stop.
"It all came to a head one night as I tucked her into bed and Chloe told me she couldn’t cope anymore and wanted to be in heaven."
It all came to a head one night as I tucked her into bed and Chloe told me she couldn’t cope anymore and wanted to be in heaven. It absolutely broke my heart and I knew I had to try and sort this once and for all as I wasn’t getting any support from school, so I decided to look externally for places that could help us. School were adamant that the restorative justice meeting that they had had with Chloe and the perpetrator had not brought up any issues, and that they had done what they could. They absolutely weren’t understanding that Chloe was fearful of repercussions if she spoke up in front of the perpetrator as they would know that they were having the desired effect. I found out shortly after about Kidscape from a local parent network.
I signed us up to do the ZAP workshop which I can honestly say was a turning point for us. Before the bullying, my daughter was very quiet - but happy, confident and full of fun. Now she was shy and nervous of new people around her. But as we entered the workshop, our nerves soon vanished as Kate, the Kidscape representative, came over to say hello with a big smile and immediately made us feel welcome and comfortable. There were about six other families in the session with children aged up to 16 and while the children stayed with Kate to learn about strategies to help them become more confident and resilient in these situations, us parents went to a separate room next door to share our own experiences with our children, if we wanted to. Our representative, Mira, talked us through the process to work in collaboration with schools to resolve these issues, and the next steps to take if the school wasn’t responding. You spend so much time feeling a whole range of emotions when your child is being bullied and like you are constantly hitting a brick wall. This session made me feel empowered as a parent, albeit a few of us were a little emotional. Just to hear the words ‘I hear you, and I believe you,’ was such a huge relief.
The session lasted about five hours and as time went on, we could hear the children talking more and laughing with one another. During the break Chloe raced over to me saying ‘Mummy I’ve found my voice’. I felt such relief that she was enjoying it and feeling comfortable enough to open up. It was a great workshop and I left with a clear plan as to how we would move forward next.
Sadly, the bullying continued but we felt armoured and Chloe started using her strategies which made the perpetrator see that they were no longer having such an effect. But when we saw my son was being bullied too, I made the decision to take our children out of school. They were both so happy that they were free from this constant upset.
We looked through the reports for other schools in our area and took our children with us to visit, as we felt it was important that they have some say as to where they would like to go. They have now settled into their new school and have a great groups of friends. Chloe has had one small incident since being there, but it was dealt with very quickly and efficiently and the school has been absolutely superb. I wish we had moved them sooner.
Although Chloe isn’t bullied now, I know she has learnt much-needed skills from Kidscape to deal with any issues like this in the future. I was so grateful to the charity that I decided to become a volunteer. In this role I have offered advice and guidance to other families like ours and I have helped to deliver ZAP workshops and Online Safety in our local area. It feels great to see other families getting this support and seeing new friendships being made. It’s rewarding to see the workshop giving these families and children hope.
"Nothing I do can ever fully repay Kidscape for helping my family and I would 100 per cent recommend all parents and children take part if they are or have been affected by bullying. They needn’t feel nervous as Kidscape make it very open and welcoming."
Nothing I do can ever fully repay Kidscape for helping my family and I would 100 per cent recommend all parents and children take part if they are or have been affected by bullying. They needn’t feel nervous as Kidscape make it very open and welcoming. I just hope more schools stand by their policies to tackle bullying; no matter how petty the bullying seems to them as adults, as the lasting effect it can have on a child is huge. If they can act quicker and follow up with the target so less families have to go through what we did would be a really positive step forward.
Names have been changed to protect identities
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