Schools and families working together
to support children’s
social and emotional wellbeing

A child’s social and emotional wellbeing is a vital part of their overall health, development and wellbeing. Children with high levels of social and emotional wellbeing are more likely to cope with physical, intellectual and social challenges during childhood and adolescence and lead a positive and fulfilling life. As parents and carers, you are the first teachers in helping your children develop their social and emotional skills and understandings. You can teach and model the kinds of skills, attitudes, and behaviours your children need to master, plus you can be important advocates for the social and emotional learning that happens at school.

Friendly Schools research has demonstrated that schools’ efforts to change the attitudes and behaviour of students are more likely to be successful if parents are actively involved and feel a sense of shared ownership of the process.

This page offers advice for parents to help them to support their children’s social and wellbeing.

The advice is divided into three critical areas: 

Social and Emotional Wellbeing

What is social and emotional learning?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing and practising skills that are essential for the development of positive wellbeing and mental health. These SEL skills can be grouped into five key areas as shown in the diagram. Hover over each area for more information.

Self Management
Manage own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours effectively in different situations.
Social Awareness
Understand the perspectives of, and empathise with others, including those from diverse cultures and contexts.
Relationship Skills
Establish and maintain healthy relationships and effectively interact with diverse groups and individuals.
Decision Making Online
Make constructive and respectful choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across diverse situations.
Self Awareness
Accurately recognise and understand own emotions and thoughts and how they influence behaviour across contexts.

Why is social and emotional wellbeing important?

Evidence shows that those children who have well developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, develop resilience and self-worth, resolve conflict, engage in teamwork, and feel positive about the world around them. The Australian curriculum identifies the development of social and emotional capabilities as a key foundation for student learning, leadership and citizenship.

Resources for Families

To support this partnership, Friendly Schools provides a selection of Friendly Schools and Families information packs. The packs provide useful information and tips to help you to talk with your children and to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to help promote positive social and emotional wellbeing. Some family packs also include a Family Activity Sheet for you and your family to enjoy together.

Bullying and Cyberbullying

We all hope that bullying won’t happen to our kids or to someone we know and care about. But bullying does happen to some children and young people and lots of others will see it happening around them. Opening up the lines of communication around these topics early will encourage your children to talk to you later on if they have social problems or are worried about bullying.

The most common place children and young people gather and socialise in groups is at school, so it makes sense that this is where bullying happens the most. With children now socialising and communicating online we have also seen an increase in cyberbullying.

It is crucial that you have a good understanding of bullying and talk to your child about bullying behaviours and how to seek help if they find themselves in this situation.

Definition of bullying

‘Bullying’ is a word that is often used for lots of things that are not actually bullying, such as one-off acts of unfriendly behaviour or aggressive behaviour. These can sometimes be just as serious but may require a different response. The difference between bullying behaviour and other aggressive behaviour is that bullying is repeated acts. So, the same person or group target the one person over and over.

Bullying is a repeated behaviour, that may be physical, verbal, and/or psychological and where there is intent to cause fear, distress, or harm to another; that is conducted by a more powerful person or group, against a less powerful person who is unable to stop this from happening. Bullying can be face-to-face or online.

Important words in the definition:

  • Repeated – this means the bullying keeps happening again and again. It can be different types of bullying behaviour that is happening to one person. If this pattern of behaviour continues and the person feels threatened, afraid, upset or hurt then it is bullying.
  • Intent – Intent means the person does it on purpose. The aim of the person bullying is to cause fear, distress and/or harm to the other person. The person bullying knows that they have power over the other person they are bullying, and they repeat the behaviour and with intention of using this power to their own advantage.
  • Power – Bullying is when someone uses their power over someone in a negative way. When the person being bullied is not able to stop the bullying from happening, they feel powerless. The person or people, doing the bullying then has the power in this relationship. If the person bullying keeps bullying making the other person feel upset, hurt or frightened then the person gains even more power over them.
  • Unable to stop – When the person being bullied is afraid.
Definition of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying. Cyberbullying is when an individual or a group repeatedly uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to intentionally fear, distress, or harm to another person, who finds it hard to stop it from happening. Cyberbullying can happen through text messages, pictures, video-clips or emails etc being sent directly to a person, but also when these things are sent to others or posted on the Internet, about that person.

Cyberbullying is when a person:

  • sends nasty or threatening emails or messages on the Internet or via mobile phone
  • sends/posts mean or nasty comments or pictures about others online
  • deliberately ignores or leaves others out online
  • pretends to be someone else online to hurt them or make them look foolish

This form of bullying can be more intense than non-cyberbullying because:

  • It can occur 24/7 and be difficult to escape
  • It is invasive and you can be targeted while at home
  • The person bullying can have a sense of being anonymous
  • It can have a large audience – sent to groups or posted on a public forum which can be permanent
  • It is less likely children will tell someone if they are cyberbullied or if they know someone else is being cyberbullied.
Types of Bullying

Verbal bullying

Cruel teasing and name-calling and being made fun of and teased in a hurtful way.

Cyberbullying

Being sent mean and hurtful messages on the internet or mobile phone.

Property abuse

Having money or other things broken or taken away.

Exclusion

Being left out or not allowed to join in with a group.

Emotional bullying

Telling lies or spreading nasty rumours about someone to try and make them not like them.

Physical Bullying

Being hit, kicked, punch or pushed around.

Threatening

Made afraid of getting hurt, embarrassed or upset.

Start the chat - How to explain bullying to my child?

Talking to young childrenstart-chat-1
As young children begin school it is important to start conversations about how to get along with others and be friendly. Social behaviours such as sharing, taking turns and cooperating with others are important skills for your child in the early years. It is also important to teach them about unfriendly behaviours and problem solving. In the early years, true bullying behaviours are not as common, as at this age their aggression tends to be more reactive that calculated. So although we may see children reacting aggressively to others, it is often as a reaction.

As they move out of the early years at school, they will begin to establish true friendships and move into friendship groups. This is the time to talk about bullying – what it is, how to respond and how to not bully.

Explaining bullying to younger children

The following description will help you explain to younger children the different sorts of bullying behaviours and talk about how it might feel to be on the receiving end.

Bullying is when a person or group of people keep doing mean things to you again and again that make you feel hurt, upset or frightened and you can’t stop it from happening. Bullying can happen online or offline

Bullying is when these things happen again and again to someone:start-chat-2

  • Being ignored, left out on purpose, or not allowed to join in.
  • Being made afraid of getting hurt.
  • Being made fun of and teased in a mean and hurtful way.
  • Lies or nasty stories are told about them to make other kids not like them.
  • Being hit, kicked or pushed around.

Tips for talking to your children about bullying.

Here are a selection of strategies you can use when talking to your child about bullying.

Be sure to check in with you child, speak regularly about the importance of having good, kind friends, looking out for someone who is being bullied and let them know it is okay to ask for your help or advice any time.

  • Talk about what bullying is. Explain the fact that it is repeated acts by a person or a group.
  • Let you children know it is always okay to ask for help. If they are afraid, upset or can’t stop the bullying from happen themselves they should always ask for help.
  • Talk about when to ask for help. It is important that children know when to try to deal with things themselves and when to ask for help. If they feel they can’t stop the bullying themselves, they should ask for help straight away.
  • Support your child’s friendships and talk to them about how to be a good friend.
  • Open the lines of communication by creating casual chat time. Side-by-side is a great way to have chats. Going for a walk, driving in the car, washing the dishes together or other such tasks are a great opportunity to bring up some tough topics.
  • Discuss how to solve social problems. Ask questions while you are having a casual chat like – what would you do if…? Do you ever see kids having problems with each other at school? What would you do if this happened to you?
  • Be sure to check in with you child, speak regularly about the importance of having good, kind friends, looking out for someone who is being bullied and let them know it is okay to ask for your help or advice any time.

Talking about ‘asking for help’ start-chat-3

Many children do not seek out support but struggle to deal with bullying situations by themselves. If they do ask for help, younger children usually go to parents and teachers for help. Older children are more likely to turn to their friends for support.

Children often think that talking about a bullying situation is like ‘dobbing‘ on one another.

  • Dobbing’ is when a person tries to get attention or to get someone else into trouble.
  • Asking for help is when someone feels the situation is out of their control and they is unable to deal with it alone. If anyone sees someone else in this situation they should also ask for help.

* Make sure that you reinforce that it is always okay to ask for help.

When your children grow and make the transition into Secondary School there can sometimes be an increase of bullying as children go the process of establishing and settling into new friendship groups. Young people may not be as keen to tell you about their social issues or bullying once in Secondary School, but it important for you to keep the lines of communication open and initiate regular checkin and conversations.

I think my child is being bullied

Common signs your child is being bullied:

Please note that many children may show these behaviours at times, but it may be signs of bullying if you see these things often.

  • Decreased interest in school, reluctance to go to school, absenteeism from school
  • Frequent complaints of headaches or stomach aches
  • Appearing generally unhappy, miserable, moody and/or irritable
  • Wanting to be taken to and from school or to go a new route
  • Frequent damage or loss of items such as clothing, property or school work
  • Frequent injuries such as bruises or cuts
  • Withdrawal and a reluctance to say why
  • Difficulty sleeping, wetting the bed or having nightmares
  • Coming home hungry or asking for extra lunch or pocket money and/or money going missing from the house
  • Having no friend to share free time with; and rarely invited to parties or other social activities with peers

How to respond if your child is being bullied.

The LATE strategy which was developed by researchers and parents in the Friendly Schools Project1 to help parents to respond in a calm and proactive way to help their children.

If your child tells you they are being bullied:

  • Listen to your child. React in a calm and supportive manner. It is important that your child feels confident to talk to you about problems.
  • Acknowledge that bullying is wrong, and you understand that he/she is upset by the bullying.
  • Talk about options. Ask you child what you could do to help and discuss the options. Work out a plan of what he/or she could do to help make the situation better. With older children ask them what they would like you to do to help.
  • End with encouragement. Remind your child that the bullying is not his or her fault and that you will work together to make the situation better.

Strategies:
Sometimes children want to try to handle the situation themselves and try out some strategies. It is a good idea to create an action plan with your child and try role playing some of the situations from this plan. Like most complex problems there is not a single strategy that will stop all bullying. Remind your child that it is good for them to try out strategies to stop the bullying themselves, but if they feel worried or afraid at any stage they should leave the situation and ask for help from their someone in their support group.

bullied-1Older children, and especially boys, often hide bullying from parents because they fear their parent will react in a way that may make things worse or make them un-popular in their friendship group. They want to keep up a certain appearance and feel embarrassed to ask for your support.

If your child is bullied face-to-face and can’t stop it from happening:

  • Stay calm and try not to get upset or angry. This is probably what the person bullying wants you to do.
  • Don’t fight back. If you fight back you can make the situation worse, get hurt, or be blamed for starting the trouble.
  • Try standing up for yourself in a positive way if you feel you are able to.
  • Try to act in a way that ignores the bullying by calmly turning and walking away.
  • Walk away from the situation as quickly as possible.
  • Tell a trusted adult what has happened straight away.
I think my child is being cyberbullied

Common signs your child is being bullied online:

It can sometimes be difficult to know if your child is being cyberbullied and as they get older it is less likely they will tell you. It is important for parents to monitor their children’s online activities and encourage their child to talk about any troubling experiences.

Some signs your child might be being bullied online

  • Being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
  • Appearing more lonely or distressed, withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry
  • Unexpected changes in friendship groups
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Avoidance of school or other activities they previously enjoyed
  • Becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use

Tips to support your child if they are being bullied online cyberbully-1
Make sure they don’t respond. Responding to the bullying brings attention to it and can cause it to become worse.

  1. Save the evidence of the bullying e.g. screenshot the evidence.
  2. Block the person who is bullying straight away.
  3. Check their privacy settings social networking site profile is set to private.
  4. Keep a diary of what is happening and when.
  5. Report the bullying to the site’s service provider to have it removed.
  6. Let your child’s school know. Even if it happened at home or on a weekend, bullying usually happen within the child’s social network of peers. Plus, your school can help you with advice and support your child while at school.

More advice for your child if they are bullied online:

  • Keep everything that is sent to you such as emails, texts, instant messages and comments on Facebook or Instagram. Give these to someone you trust – don’t keep them for yourself.
  • Delete your current online account, such as on a social networking site, and start a new account. Only give your new details to a small list of trusted friends.
  • Report any bullying to the site where it is occurring.
Sites such as Facebook have a report button you can use.
  • Don’t think that everyone agrees with the person bullying or is going along with them. Let your child know other children may be afraid of getting involved or are ignoring the person bullying as a way of not joining in.
  • If the bullying continues and your child is feeling afraid or threatened, seek help to report the bullying from the Police.

For more information about online safety and how to report or remove cyberbullying go to https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents/.

Responding if your child is bullying others - ( I think my child is bullying)
As they are learning about and developing their social and emotional skills children might make social or emotional mistakes.

Key points

  • Any child can potentially be at risk of engaging in bullying at some time, especially if they don’t know better ways to respond to their emotions in social situations.
  • Children or young people may also see bullying behaviours working for other other children or even adults and try it out themselves to get what they want.
  • Children and young people can also be unaware of the negative effects bullying behaviour can have on others. They also may be so focussed on meeting their own needs, they don’t connect with the pain or suffering they may be causing the person they are bullying.
  • Children may need to be taught better ways of responding to get what they want in social situations, than using bullying.

If you think or know your child is bullying others:

  • Find a quiet place or go for a walk with just you and your child.
  • Start with a question. Ask it calmly and openly.
    “I have heard/noticed that you have been involved in some issues with another child at school”

Then use the LATE model:

  • Listen to your child. React in a calm manner. It is important that your child feels confident to talk to you about problems.
  • Acknowledge that bullying is wrong, and you understand that he/she is using these behaviours for a reason, but this is not the way to handle problems. As always if your child has broken family or school rules, acknowledge that there are consequences for these actions that your child will have to face, but that you are also there to support them to make the situation better.
  • Talk about options. Ask you child what they could do to resolve this problem and for the behaviour to stop. Ask if your child would like suggestions and work out a plan of what he/or she could do to help make the situation better. Set a time plan for when these changes will happen.
  • End with encouragement. Remind your child that you are there to support this change in behaviour and that you will work together to make the situation better.
    Ensure you keep checking in to make sure the changes are occurring and bullying has stopped.
Bystanders to upstanders

Talking with your child about being a bystander
Bullying involves more people than those who are bullied and those who bully. Children who see the bullying or know the bullying is going on are often referred to as bystanders. Knowing bullying is happening can be very stressful for your children. In fact, evidence has shown that children who witness bullying happening around them can display similar anxiety levels to the person being bullied. They feel unsafe and worried it could happen to them.

Helping to stop bullying doesn’t have to mean stepping in directly to stop the bullying. Although this can work really well, not everyone has the confidence or ability to stop the bullying in this way.

A new way of looking at bystanders, being used in schools, is to talk about moving from being a ‘bystander’ to being an ‘upstander’. This means that they don’t support the bullying. Bullying can sometimes be made worse if children don’t know what to do or whom to turn to for help. Parents can help by offering to talk about the problem and providing support. All members of the community need to take responsibility to respond to bullying behaviour by not remaining silent but instead talking about the issue.

What can Bystanders do?
If a child sees another child being bullied they could bystander-1

  • Let the person doing the bullying know that their behaviour is not okay. If you feel it is safe to do so, (it can help to do this with your friends), let the person know that you don’t like what they are doing and that it is bullying.
  • Shift the focus off the person being bullied. Ask the person being bullied to come with you or if your friends are doing the bullying encourage them to leave the person alone and do something more positive.
  • Support the student who is being bullied by letting them know you don’t like the bullying and would like to help.
  • Take the person being bullied away from the situation. This takes away the audience and sense of power from the person bullying, so can stop the bullying.
  • Encourage others to support the person who is being bullied (safety in numbers).
  • Ask the child being bullied to join your group of friends. Children who are alone are more likely to be the target of bullying so encourage children to be aware of children who are left out or on their.
  • Let a teacher, support person or parent know the person needs help.

Let your children know:

  • They need to think about their own safety first and the safety of the person being bullied before they act. If they feel unsafe or feel they can’t do anything to help they should always ask for help.
  • The important thing is that you do something to help the person being bullied. Always think – what would I want someone to do if I was in this position?

How can parents help children who are worried about bullying happening around them?

Parents can support their children by:

  • Discuss bullying (stories in books or on television can lead to discussion about bullying situations).
  • Listen to the child’s point of view on the topic of bullying.
  • By helping the child to discuss solutions and consequences to problems they see or are involved in. (Problem solving)
  • Problem solve as a whole family. This can help the child feel valued and supported as well as make the other family members aware of problems and solutions.
  • Listen to the child’s point of view on the topic of bullying.
  • Provide advice on what might happen as a result of bullying and why it is important to tell someone.
  • Develop a clear family policy that ‘put downs’ are not OK.
  • Help your children to understand the problem of bullying and show empathy and understanding of how people might feel if they are bullied.
Partnering with my child’s school

Always approach your school if you feel your child is being bullied or cyberbullied even if this has been happening outside of school hours. Your school will be keen to partner with you in making sure your child is safe and happy and will able to help you with advice and support. Remember your child’s education and wellbeing is a partnership between you and the school.

Many young people report they do not tell an adult when they are experiencing cyberbullying because they are afraid of how adults will respond. Young people report their parents often over-react and try to take control of the situation. Young people need adults to help them to deal with the problem for themselves by acting as a facilitator, listening non-judgmentally and providing support and advice when asked.

Ask your child which (if any) strategies she/he has already tried, if they were helpful, what other people have tried and their usefulness, and what they would try next time. It is important to also let the school know about the bullying situation. However, before approaching the school, ask your child how they would like to talk about this issue with the school and discuss what outcome they wants as a result of involving the school.

To make contact with the school:

  • Write an email as a record of your contact to your child’s teacher/s outlining your concerns and make an appointment (for both you and your child) to discuss the problem.
  • Take any evidence of the bullying or cyber bullying with you.
  • Explain what you know about the situation (what, how long, severity).
  • Describe strategies your child has tried to date to stop the bullying from happening or to seek help.
  • Asking for a plan of action that can be implemented at the school and at home.
  • Set a date and time for a follow-up meeting.
  • Discuss with your child what has been planned and what the agreed strategies are.
  • Follow up with the school and your child at regular intervals to find out how the situation is progressing, and whether any further action is needed.

If the bullying continues:

  • Keep a diary of the incidents and take these to the schools to compare with the records of these behaviours at school.
  • Send an email as a record of your contact and make another appointment with the teacher/s to discuss the continued incidents and find a solution.
  • Keep a record of your communications and plans and outline the strategies with your child
  • Follow up with the school and your child at regular intervals to find out how the situation is progressing, and whether any further action is needed.

If the bullying continues and you feel that you are not getting resolution to stop the bullying:

  • Email the Principal outlining the situation and ask for an appointment to discuss the situations further.

If the bullying is serious and your child is being hurt or threatened with violence or your child is sexually harassed, you can report this to the police.

Reporting bullying and cyberbullying

If the bullying is serious and your child is being hurt or threatened with violence or your child is sexually harassed, you can report this to the police.

Many young people are unaware that everything they say and do online leaves a ‘digital footprint’ and although they may have deleted a message, picture or website, this can never fully be deleted. If your child has been cyberbullied, here are a few tips for how you can save and report the evidence:

Mobile phones: download and print the message or take a photo of the message on the screen with your camera. For nuisance calls or messages you can contact your mobile phone service provider and for threatening calls or messages, contact the Police.

Online content: If content is posted on a website you need to contact the website directly. Most social networking sites (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter ) have pages where you can report ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

To report cyber bullying go to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
If the bullying is serious and your child is being hurt or threatened with violence or your child is sexually harassed, you can report this to the police.

Cyber Safety

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Beacon is designed specifically for parents as a personalised, one-stop-shop for reliable information about the online world. It arms parents and carers with the knowledge they need to confidently help navigate their children’s digital behaviour and reduce harms we know are associated with being online.

Beacon will shine a light on the online world with:

  • Articles and videos backed by the latest research
  • Tailored content and alerts, unique to your family needs
  • Create your own family agreement
  • Help and services that are available to you and your family

Download the free app today

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Brought to you by

The partnership between these two iconic West Australian organisations brings together 15 years of cyber behaviour research by scientists at the Telethon Kids Institute and digital expertise and research by Bankwest.

Contact: beacon@telethonkids.org.au

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