Posted: 04 October 2019

How bullying and other disadvantage affects children's well-being

Our latest Good Childhood Report showed that young people with low or strained family finances, and those who felt unsafe during the school day were scoring lower in overall well-being. 

We caught up with Maaike, senior therapist at our Stride project. who reflects on these findings and gives her experience as a practitioner working with trauma.

Bullying and feeling unsafe

Bullying often has a huge impact on how children and young people experience themselves and the world around them. Bullying can affect their sense of safety, identity, (lack of) friendships, self-esteem and confidence.

If bullying happened at school, school probably wouldn’t feel safe for them. But if bullying happened at home, or in their neighbourhood, it would mean that several areas of their lives are affected in a negative way.

Young people may then experience a sense of trauma at school, as well as at home/in their neighbourhood. They have no space to feel safe and explore who they are. If you add another disadvantage, such as material deprivation, this would add another layer of complexity to a child’s life. 

A place to be curious, comforted and loved

Ideally, every child has a ‘safe space’, or a ‘safe haven’. It would be a place where they can feel safe, they can be who they are. Maybe it would even be a place where they could be curious, be comforted and loved. If this place is threatened or it is simply not there, but instead is filled with stress, violence and trauma, or feelings of unsafety, it would have a great impact on their sense of well-being.

'Ideally, every child has a safe space'

I provide therapy to young people who have experienced trauma, including homelessness, violence, material deprivation and bullying. I often see that their nervous system has become overwhelmed and overburdened - even more so if the stressors take place in different areas of their lives (school, neighbourhood, family, sports teams, clubs).

If young people don’t have a space where they can feel safe, it can have quite long-term consequences to their mental health. It is vital that a sense of safety is restored as soon as possible so that a young person’s sense of well-being can gradually start to increase again.

We can be a safe person for others

We can be a safe person for any young person who we see is struggling. Ask that young person or child how they are doing. It’s okay to show interest and curiosity. If appropriate, know that you can also refer the young person (with their consent) to counselling or therapy.

'It's okay to show interest'

Counselling and therapy is aimed at supporting the young person where they’re at, helping them to identify what would help them. If they have reservations about therapy or counselling, talk it through with them. What would stop them from engaging? And what can you do to help them in this process? Attuning to the young person’s wishes, wants and needs can make a world of difference.

Our services like Stride do a lot to support young people with disadvantage, however it's important we are able to understand young people's well-being before it starts suffering. At the moment we have no way of knowing how childhoods measure up.

That's why we're demanding the Government measures well-being in young people across the country.


By Maaike

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