help for children, Help for Parents and Carers, Resources for Parents, Friends and Carers

For Children: “It’s ok to cry”.

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When we are bullied and people treat us in a way that makes us feel bad whether that is by calling us names, hitting us, making fun of us, telling us we don’t look nice, ignoring us, or leaving us out of things, it can hurt very deeply.

When we are in a situation in which we feel scared, threatened, weak, helpless, frightened, or humiliated (like when people make fun of us or say something bad about us in front of others) then our bodies and brains try to protect us. This is called the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ response. What does that mean? When you are threatened, your brain responds to try to protect you, and different things happen in your body that might make you want to stand up for yourself (you might feel angry or want to do something to protect yourself) – that’s the fight response; you may want to run away, that’s the ‘flight’ response to protect yourself you try to get away from the bad situation, or you may not feel you can do anything at all to protect yourself, and so you ‘freeze’. I remember a time in a class where a group of boys were making fun of me and the way I looked, and the teacher was actually encouraging them which is very sad, and it made me feel very hurt, sad, ashamed, frightened and horrible about myself. It wasn’t my fault (it took me a long time to figure that out, even as a grown up, because it was so confusing) but I thought it was because something was wrong with me. Even though it hurt really bad, I just sat there, silently, I was ‘numb’, I froze (not in the way you do if you get cold, but I wasn’t able to react, do or say anything or tell anyone how I felt). There was also another time, when a group of girls who were stronger than me were gathered together. The girl who was the main bully saw that I had a bald patch on my head, it wasn’t very big and I had tried to cover it up. I felt so ashamed of it that I didn’t even tell my mum. (This is what doctors call ‘alopecia areata’ – when some of your hair falls out in a patch, maybe because of stress. Thankfully after some time the hair grew back for me, and I now have lovely long hair). The bigger girl grabbed my head when she noticed the bald patch, pulled my head down and showed everyone in the group and said, ‘Oh cool, a bald patch’. I felt frightened, and it hurt me and I felt very sad, but I didn’t cry at the time. People may have thought that they could be mean to me and it wouldn’t hurt me as badly as it did. I froze. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t stand up for myself or find the courage to tell them to leave me alone. I just froze. But that was just my brain’s way of protecting me in a situation that I didn’t have the strength or confidence to handle. I couldn’t even tell anyone what happened even though it felt so bad. But at other times, when I was alone, maybe in the sick bay / sick room I would cry silently to myself. It is important that you know that it is ok to cry. Even if a grown up or someone else tells you not to, your body, brain and emotions need to what is called ‘process’ that difficult experience. Sometimes we can’t process things at the time, and we may find ourselves crying later on, and not really know why. It might be a day later, a week, a month, or even like many grown ups who have been bullied and never had the chance to ‘process’ through these things at the time, they may burst into tears and cry a lot many many years later when they are adults. This happened to me, and I didn’t understand it at the time, but other grown ups whose jobs it is to help people explained some of these things to me, and it made a bit more sense. It is kind of our body’s way of healing us by letting the hurt and pain and bad stuff out, just like when you are sick with a cold, you might get a runny nose and that’s because your body is trying to get the infection out so that you can get stronger and feel better later on. Our bodies and brains are pretty amazing that way, but sometimes it can take a lot of time to feel better, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get better, stronger and even feel happy again. So it is ok to cry. You don’t need to feel ashamed of crying, it’s a bit like getting a runny nose and getting rid of the unhealthy stuff. Crying can sometimes be good for you even if you don’t know why you are crying, and even if a grown up tells you not to. The grown up may just not understand that it’s your body’s way of helping you process your emotions and hurt, and they may just not want you to feel sad. But it’s ok to feel sad, to cry and then to get stronger again in your own time.

There have been a lot of big ideas here, some may be difficult to understand, so well done for reading this far. If it is something you have been thinking about, maybe you can ask a grown up to help you understand what you have read, or if you have any questions, you can leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them and help you through. Remember you are never alone, and you are very special.

help for children, Help for Parents and Carers, Resources for Parents, Friends and Carers

For Children and Parents. “A Happiness Box”.

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Sometimes when we are sad and confused it can be difficult to know what to do to feel better. It is a good idea to have something to cheer us up when we don’t feel so good. Why don’t you ask a grown up to help you create a “Happiness Box”. You could decorate a shoe box, or use a colourful toy box, or find somewhere you can put some special things in. So, what should go in your box? Something comforting, like a soft toy, maybe a game that you could play, or some colouring in books and pens and pencils. You could ask someone who cares about you, whether that is a mum or dad, big brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, friend, or teacher to help you write down some kind things about yourself to encourage you when you feel sad. They could even write a letter or a note to you that you can keep in your “Happiness Box” for you to read whenever you need to hear some kind words about yourself. You could also ask them to help you find some nice pictures, drawings, photographs, or something cheerful to keep in your box. Maybe even a sweetie or a chocolate too! This will be your own special box, just for you, filled with some of your favourite things to help cheer you up when you need help finding your smile 🙂

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For Children. “Please don’t bully yourself”.

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When people say or do mean things to us, it can hurt a lot. It can ‘scramble’ our thoughts a bit too. Words can cause a lot of pain and damage, so if someone has used unkind words against you this might have caused a ‘wound’ in your mind and emotions.

Because being bullied is very painful and difficult to deal with we can end up believing that the mean things people said or say about us are true. Instead of being our own best friend, we can bully ourselves by what we say to ourselves in our minds (what grown ups call ‘self talk’). This can happen even when the bullying stops. That’s what happened to me. After a couple of years when the bullies were no longer in my class at school and I became friends with nicer people, the cruel way people treated me left me feeling very bad about myself. I didn’t know how to deal with it, and in my mind I kept repeating the bad things and in a way ‘bullying’ myself. I would say mean things about myself because people had been so mean to me, and I didn’t know how to cope.

I didn’t have anyone telling me how to deal with things and because people only see what’s on the outside, no one really knew the damage that was happening in my mind. Even as a grown up I have struggled with these thoughts and have had to work really, really hard to change them into kind thoughts about myself, and I am still working on it.

I don’t want you to have to go through such a hard time, so I want to tell you how important it is that you try to think kind thoughts about yourself now, no matter what anyone else has said about you. Imagine that you have a friend who you really like and you think good things about them. Now imagine that a bully started being mean to your friend, what would you do? Even if you didn’t feel brave enough to do anything at the time, afterwards you would probably try to comfort your friend and be kind to them. You’d maybe ask them if they were ok, give them a hug or do something to make them feel better. You might use your words to encourage them and help them feel good about themselves. If the bully called them ‘stupid’ you might tell them that you think they’re smart, and remind them of the things that they are good at. If the bully called them ‘ugly’ or some other mean words then you might tell them something nice about their appearance and that they are a lovely person and you are happy that they are your friend. If the bully hurt them physically you might get help for them.

When our friends are hurt, we want to protect them, be kind to them, help them, and make them feel better. When we get hurt, we can find it really difficult to manage all the unpleasant feelings that we experience, and we can end up being really horrible to ourselves. But as difficult as it might be, we need to try to treat ourselves with the same kindness as we would treat our friends when they are in trouble, instead of bullying ourselves by saying mean things in our minds about ourselves. Have you ever thought mean things about yourself? Sometimes we tell ourselves lies, because we believe they are true even though they are not, things like ‘I’m ugly, I’m stupid, I’m horrible’. Do you do this? Instead of being another bully to yourself, say to yourself if someone was mean to my friend, what would I do or say to make them feel better? I should be a good friend to myself. And then do or think something nice about yourself. Every time you feel like being mean to yourself, say something nice instead, keep practicing this over and over and be your own best friend.

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For Children. “Why do I feel sick?”

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If you are being bullied you might wonder why you feel so unwell all the time. There could be lots of reasons why you don’t feel well, and if you don’t feel alright it is important that you tell a grown up and ask for help, and maybe the grown up will take you to a doctor if that is what is needed. Even though there might be different reasons that you don’t feel well, some of them might be to do with the bullying. Have you ever fallen over when running or hurt yourself riding a bike or bumped into something? Your body would have felt pain, and maybe you had some bleeding or got a bruise. Our bodies allow us to feel pain so that we can know that something has gone wrong and so that we can rest the bit that has been hurt and allow it to heal and get better.

When people are mean to us, our emotions get hurt and so do our minds. We might not be able to see the pain or wound in the same way as if we had broken a bone or got hurt in our body, but we still can feel what is called emotional pain (when we feel sad, hurt, afraid, angry, humiliated, lonely or other difficult feelings) and mental or psychological pain (in our minds and thoughts). When we are going through difficult things, we experience ‘stress’ – our brains are working overtime to protect us from harm. Our brains produce chemicals in our bodies because of the stress, and sometimes because things are a bit ‘wonky’ we get too much of these chemicals. We might feel anxious, scared, frightened, confused. These are all normal reactions to difficult situations. But just like our bodies need time to heal, so do our emotions. If you are being bullied though you might not get the chance to heal, or ‘process’ those painful emotions, and your body might show those emotions through physical symptoms. You might have tummy aches, or headaches, you might feel sick or anxious and afraid a lot of the time. You might feel confused and not know what to do, or you might feel aches and pains. If you find that you are not feeling well a lot of the time, or if you also feel sad, upset, tearful and poorly, it is important to know that this is not your fault, your body and emotions are reacting to the difficult things you are going through and you need time and space and help from an adult to get better. It can be really scary to ask for help. When I was a child I was very frightened and a patch of my hair fell out. I felt too sad, scared and ashamed that I didn’t tell anyone, not even my mum. But my mum saw this one day when she was doing my hair and she wanted to help me. If you feel scared and ashamed because you don’t feel well, please know that it is not your fault and it is ok to tell a grown up. Can you speak to a mum or dad, auntie or uncle, a teacher who you trust, the school nurse, a big brother or sister or even a friend? It may be really difficult to express what you feel, and you might not know the words to say, or you might not be able to get the words out. Maybe you could ask for help by writing it down. Sometimes grown ups forget how hard it can be for a child to speak up. If you don’t know what to say maybe you could write something like: “I feel very sad, scared and unwell a lot of the time. Please help me”. It would be a good idea to let them know you are being bullied but I understand that can be very difficult. There are lots of ways to get help but the best thing to do is to tell a kind grown up. They may not know how bad you feel inside, so it is important that you be really brave and let someone know. If you feel like there is no one you can talk to, you can come here to this blog, and you can ask me any questions in the comments and I will listen to you and try to give you any help and advice I can. Please remember that you are not alone, people love and care about you and want you to be well.

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For Children. “When you wonder if it is your fault”.

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If you have been bullied it can be very confusing. When people are unkind to us, it can feel really horrible inside. And sometimes because we feel so bad, we might think that there is something very wrong with us that makes people treat us that way. When lots of people say the same bad things about us or do bad things to us we might believe that those bad things about us are true.

When I was little I believed that the bad things people said about me were true. Being treated so badly made me feel horrible inside and so I thought I was horrible and somehow it was my fault, that I wasn’t good enough, that there was something wrong with me. Those feelings can be so strong and last a long time that we find it hard to believe that we are ok, we are special, and it’s not our fault.

Maybe you feel that way too sometimes? Or maybe you feel that way a lot of the time. But the thing is, being bullied for who you are is not your fault, it is not ok, and there will never be any ‘reason’ why someone should treat you in a way to make you feel bad.

You might be wondering why there is a picture of a giraffe here. 🙂 Well, I think that giraffes are beautiful animals. If you have ever been to a safari park, a wildlife sanctuary, a zoo or somewhere on holiday, you might have seen lots of different animals, birds, insects and creatures. Maybe you have pets or know someone who has a pet. Imagine with me for a moment that you have been asked to ‘pet sit’ for a friend one day. Imagine that this friend has different animals. One is, let’s say a panda bear, one is a kitten, one is a puppy dog, and one is a giraffe. Your job is to look after, feed and be kind to all of these animals. Maybe you have a favourite animal, and that’s ok. But maybe your friend has a different favourite animal to you. Does that mean that one is better than the other? No. Does it mean that one of the animals isn’t as important as the other? Of course not. Because the giraffe is very tall and has big ears and a long neck, does that mean it would be ok to be mean to it, to call it names, to beat it with a stick or not to feed it? No, because that would be cruel. Because the panda bear is bigger and stronger than the kitten and the puppy does that mean it is ok to ignore the kitten and puppy and leave them out of any games? No, that’s not ok. If someone came and shouted at the puppy for being different to the other animals, or because it was the smallest, or it was scared and shy or had brown fur, or played by itself or was good at catching, would that mean that it would be ok for someone to pull the puppy’s tail, or throw things at it, or shout at it to make it scared or chase it down the street? No, if someone did those things to the puppy it would not be the puppy’s fault. It would be because the person doing those things was behaving cruelly and unkindly. The puppy didn’t deserve to be treated badly. And neither do you.

It can be very difficult to accept that it’s not our fault. But nobody deserves to be made to feel bad about being themselves. If you wonder if it is your fault, think about the story about these animals. Don’t they all deserve to be looked after? Aren’t they all special, unique and wonderful in their own ways? Yes, they are all very different to each other – but does that mean that one isn’t as important as another? No, they are all important – and their differences are what make them unique and special, one of a kind, just like you and just like me. So if someone treats you badly because of who you are, remember that no matter how horrible it feels inside, you are being treated badly because that person is being unkind, disrespectful, rude or mean, and not because you deserve it. We are all different, and we all deserve kindness, and we should all try to be kind to each other as much as we can. You are special. The giraffe and all his friends think so too 🙂

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Am I welcome here?

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Hi there, and welcome 🙂

If you’ve been bullied it is understandable if you feel a bit scared or nervous, or wonder if you belong. You might even wonder if you are welcome here. Let me reassure you that I am so very glad that you found this safe place online, and are looking for help. If you are nervous, just know that no matter who you are, I think that you are very important, and you will only find support, kindness, care, respect and love here. This is a safe place for you and you are definitely welcomed and cared for here. I am a ‘grown up’ and I was bullied as a child. Now that I am an adult I want to help kids and teenagers (and adults) who are still going through bullying or the effects of bullying because I know how bad it can feel, and how confusing it is to try to understand what is happening to you. Even if you don’t know what to do or who to talk to, you can come here and find encouragement and advice. Please know that you are very important and special and nobody has the right to make you feel bad. I hope to share with you some of the things that helped me, and encourage you that there is help for you and you matter.