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Helping Your Child Rediscover Social Skills

How does Tanglin’s pastoral team support our children and young people who have to deal with social situations they have not experienced in a number of years due to COVID restrictions? Richard Sellers, Deputy Head of Senior School & Director of Pastoral Care, shares more with us.

The easing and removal of COVID restrictions have been a relief to many. Freedom to work, play and mingle in large groups is undoubtedly welcomed. Still, we must remember that many of our young people have not had the opportunity to mix in such large groups for a long time and need guidance and time to rediscover or develop these social skills. I have spoken to many adults who have found the return to offices and social events overwhelming or anxiety-inducing. Consequently, we must consider how this feels for our children and young people and give them time to adjust and be mindful of what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate interactions with their peers.

Understanding Banter
Banter is a term often used by children and young people, and describes jovial teasing or talk amongst friends. It is often used to establish a sense of belonging, understood by the group or a select few. Used this way, it can be enjoyed and be used as a good-natured form of entertainment. However, there is a risk that bullying behaviour can be excused as banter. There is a fine line between banter being good-natured and viewed as playful joking to turning into a form of bullying behaviour. Just because banter doesn’t constitute all the elements of bullying, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
Helpful information for you to speak to your child about the term banter:

  • When comments are based on appearance, race, sexuality, identity or disability, this is not banter.
  • If it isn’t funny, don’t laugh! If you do not find comments aimed at you funny, do not laugh along with them.
  • Be an upstander! If you can see that someone is not enjoying it, do not laugh along and don’t be afraid to point it out.
  • Don’t make jokes about something you know your friend is insecure about.
  • Just because you say it’s banter doesn’t mean it is. Think before you speak and ask yourself, would I find this funny if somebody said this about me or a family member?
  • The anti-bullying alliance defines bullying as behaviour that is hurtful, repetitive, intentional, and an imbalance of power.
  • Hurtful: If the person on the receiving end perceives the behaviour as hurtful regardless of everyone else’s perception.
  • Repetitive: If a person has been told to stop this behaviour, yet they continue.
  • Intentional: If people know their actions are causing hurt and pain, they continue.
  • Imbalance of Power: This could be via age, physicality or by a person manipulating or influencing other students to agree with them or encouraging them to create hurt or isolation.

Supporting Your Child
If your child tells you or you suspect that they are the subject of bullying behaviour, please inform the school so that we can support the children involved and prevent further cases from occurring. The following guidance is designed to help you support your child if they disclose that they are the subject of this kind of behaviour:

LISTEN: It’s a privilege if your child chooses to talk to you about personal concerns. Thank them and acknowledge the bravery it can take to open up and talk about this. Remember that this is about them and their feelings, not you and yours, so try to hear your child out without layering your emotions (distress, anger, upset) over the conversation.

REASSURE: If bullying behaviour is occurring in school, your child may be reluctant for you to inform teachers. This is often because they fear it will make things worse. Be reminded that bullying behaviour is unlikely to stop unless you tell teachers at school. Bullying behaviour can rapidly erode a child’s self-esteem. One of your key jobs is to reassure them and help them realise that they have done nothing wrong, that you still love them, and that
you will help them to ensure it stops.

ROLEPLAY: During a quiet time, explore what happens during bullying behaviour situations with your child. Think about the bully’s motivations, what response they’re trying to elicit, and what type of response might help diffuse the situation. 

INFORM TEACHERS AT SCHOOL: Inform your child’s class teacher/tutor and Head of Year about the bullying behaviour by providing facts and evidence. Understand that it will take time for the Pastoral team to investigate and that they will have to get statements from the young people involved.

Tanglin Trust School takes all reports of bullying behaviour seriously. It will ensure the safeguarding of children, but we all need to remember that young people do make mistakes, and many of those who make hurtful comments do this for several reasons, including: 

  • They believe that what they are saying is a joke and not intended to hurt when they are being insensitive to their friend’s feelings.
  • They have low self-esteem.
  • They have been bullied and are looking to regain a sense of power.
  • They are looking for attention.
  • They are assertive and impulsive.

Tanglin Trust School will support all the students involved in bullying behaviour incidents, including the person inflicting the behaviour. Remember, hurt people hurt people, so it is essential that everybody requires the appropriate support and interventions. Targets of bullying behaviour and bystanders are often unwilling to open up to adults if the only response is one of blame and punishment. Research indicates that the best approach is always to work with all students in a solution-focused way. At Tanglin Trust school, we seek to:

  • identify the facts
  • increase empathy
  • identify strategies for a positive way forward

In many cases, a resolution to prevent further bullying behaviour will be found through discussions with individuals or groups, focussing on the following:

  • empathy for the feelings of the student experiencing bullying behaviour
  • examples of appropriate behaviour
  • strategies for resolving conflict among peers
  • awareness of the Code of Conduct and inappropriate
  • behaviour

This does not mean that there are no consequences or that the school does not use sanctions with students who have exhibited bullying behaviour. We must look at each incident case-by-case and consider all the different factors involved. Children and young people develop and establish relationships and friendships with their peers at different rates and are often impacted by their emotional maturity. It is typical for a child’s friendship group to change frequently in line with their interests and hobbies. As children get older and become teenagers, they often conform to peer pressure, which can result in negative and positive influences, leading to changes in their friendship circle. The number of close friendships may decline, but the quality of these relationships can often become more trusting and intimate. 

The Pastoral and Lifeskills curriculums at Tanglin Trust school are designed to help educate children and young people about relationships and friendships so they can develop the skills to interact positively yet deal with problems or issues as they occur. Children and young people are encouraged to inform staff of their difficulties, and please do not hesitate to contact the Pastoral teams if you have any concerns about your child.

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