Zayam came to a ZAP workshop in Birmingham with his mum, who explains what it meant to them both
Photo: Young people taking part in a ZAP workshop
Zayam*  has become so much more assertive now; he's a lot more confident. He's starting to believe in teachers and adults. He doesn't feel like he's the only one, that there's something wrong with him because he met other children there who were like him, just normal boys, who were quite cool as well, who share the same interests. They'd been picked on [too] and they had exactly the same scenario: nobody believed them, they kept getting into trouble each time they approached adults for help, so for him, it's just made him realise that it's not just him against the rest of the world, he's a lot more assertive now...
... When there's a problem he's able to go to the teachers, he was not able to do that [before]. He was always miserable because he never spoke out. He's got those little cards that they gave out in the workshop, he puts them in his pocket, he's got one in his pencil case and it's just to teach him how to deal with bullying… [Before the workshop] when someone was bullying him he did two things: one, do nothing, two, retaliate and make things worse and we couldn't get the message across to him how to make it better. But since the workshop, he knows how to deal with it, to say 'stop', and to repeat it and to keep saying it, and that's because he's acted it out and it's not just me saying it...
It was really good to see other parents and to be reassured ... it's normal for you to feel this way
It was really, really good for me to come to the workshop. It's been so draining emotionally, because I've gone to other charities, but it's been like a quick fix where I've rung up for about 5-10 minutes, had a good cry when my son wasn't around, but then I have to always be strong for my child and fight battles for him at school, try and get people to talk... nobody wanted to know, so all that had been building up. Then you've got parents who disassociate themselves because they think your child is a problem or they're sick of you talking about your problems. So I came here, it was really good to see other parents and to be reassured - look you know, it's normal for you to feel this way and to be a little bit angry with your son, to be a bit fed up of your son being constantly bullied... Hearing other stories that are so similar and other parents saying exactly the same thing... it just gave me a bit more confidence cos you don't feel like you're a bad parent or you've done something wrong.
The trainer was giving me tips on how to talk to the school and what's acceptable and what isn't. I just wish I'd gone to this workshop earlier, because we went when my son had changed schools, and he was carrying a lot of burden, but had I gone when he was actually being bullied at his last school it would have been really, really, really helpful. It's really hard when you go to talk to schools ... when you've got a child who's really bright, really happy, full of life - then all of a sudden becomes a vegetable, literally, a vegetable, that can't walk, that's holding on to you cos he can't walk, can't sleep, crying at night, has to have medicine to sleep, is scared of everything ... doesn't want to be alone in the room, it's just a shock, something you do not imagine your child going through. And it's hard trying to find information; to get support, you're so exhausted; but the ZAP workshop taught me not to let the school fob you off ... [I learnt] this is your right, this is how you're supposed to approach it. I think it would be really helpful for any parent who is going through this...
I went to so many organisations [before Kidscape] and it just felt like nobody was willing to help me... speaking to someone face-to-face in a group and your child coming back happy and confident and both of you... talking on the same level... now whenever there's a problem, I'll just remind him of the cloud, remind him to say stop, and he knows exactly what I'm talking about.
We were both were a bit apprehensive. I thought maybe it might make him worse or it might make him feel, you know, different, cos he didn't want to go, cos he thought it was going to be full of, as children would say, 'losers', and he didn't want to feel like a loser as well. I thought as a parent I'm not going to fit in, the other parents will judge me, but no - it was surprising, we were all the same. Children and parents were all the same!
* Name has been changed