Anouk went from a happy grade 2 student playing with a large group of friends, to spending playtime alone and crying. Her mum, Fiona, thought it was just a transitional phase into grade 3. But as the weeks passed, Fiona realised Anouk was being deliberately excluded from play by a bully.
Professor Donna Cross is a bullying expert for the Bullying. So Not Ok. awareness campaign, working together with Supré Foundation, headspace and Telethon Kids Institute. The initiative takes a stand against school bullying behaviour by fostering positive change to create a supportive world where children are lauded.
Of course Anouk’s situation is far from being ‘lauded’. So what can Anouk do? And how can her mum help her?
In this special anti-bullying series, Professor Cross analyses real-life bullying experiences and offers practical advice to deal with it – for both parents and the children.
This week, Fiona and Anouk share their story. Here’s Professor Cross’ advice…
“My daughter is excluded from the group.”
“It started in grade 3 for Anouk. Her friendship group from grade 2 had been split across two classes for grade 3. I just expected Anouk would play with the same group of six or so girls regardless of them being in different classes, but it wasn’t the case. Her friends had started a new group in the other class and one of these new girls, Saskia, was very bossy. She’d say in front of all the kids, ‘You’re not playing with us Anouk.’ Anouk would be left crying on the seat on her own. That group started getting larger, with Saskia being one of the leaders saying who could and couldn’t play with them. And because Saskia was so mean and forceful, I think the other children, who weren’t in that group, didn’t want to play with Anouk because of it. It was like Anouk had been targeted and branded an outcast by Saskia. I thought it was just a transition phase but six weeks into the year Anouk’s anxiety started getting worse. She’d spend all morning before school worried that she’d have no one to play with that day, and our nights would be spent discussing the distressing events of her being excluded throughout the day. I organised playdates with Anouk’s friends on weekends and everything seemed fine, but in the school ground, when Saskia was there, these same girls wouldn’t play with Anouk.
“Anouk’s teacher said he’d keep an eye on what was happening in the playground, and that he’d talk to the other grade 3 teacher and the kids about bullying. But two weeks later and the bully is still bullying.” Fiona, mum to Anouk, 8
Professor Donna Cross says:
“Exclusion can be one of the hardest types of bullying for teachers and parents to respond to. However, beyond the action the school should take to talk to the students who are making Anouk feel this way, there are some positive actions parents can take to help their children.
“The first is called social architecture, which means helping your children to form other friendship groups. Children are far more vulnerable to bullying when they are not playing with friends. Make a list of all the students in your child’s class and ask your son/daughter to identify all the children they would like to be friends with who are not part of this group who are behaving badly. Invite these children one on one home for ‘play dates’ to help your children build friendships so he/she is less dependent on the group excluding her. Exclusionary behaviour doesn’t work if children no longer want to be part of a particular group.
“Also, parents can try what’s called ‘social inoculation’ – that is, playing roles to practice how to respond when these exclusionary behaviours occur. This gives children a ‘literacy’, a bunch of actions/words they can use to diffuse the situations and to help give him/her autonomy and more confidence when these situations arise. They have a way to get out of the situation with dignity. So skilling your children to respond to extinguish the behaviour is important as children who bully are looking for a reaction and when they don’t get this they usually look elsewhere. Ideally the school would also take action to discourage the bullying by withdrawing the social privileges of the students involved including those who are standing by and taking no action. It is important for schools to mobilise the other students to upstand when they see someone being treated so badly and take action to provide peer support to students like Anouk.”
ABOUT: Professor Donna Cross is a bullying expert for the Bullying. So Not Ok. awareness campaign, working together with Supré Foundation, headspace and Telethon Kids Institute. Supré Foundation Bullying Education and Prevention Resource Kit will be distributed into schools across the country, as well as offering a free anti-bullying booklet at Supré stores and headspace centres nationally.
headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.
Information and services for young people, their families and friends as well as health professionals can be accessed through the website, headspace centres, online counselling service eheadspace, the Digital Work and Study Service and postvention suicide support program headspace School Support.