- Bullying - advice for parents
Bullying - advice for parents
As a parent, bullying is something you will be aware of and perhaps concerned about. If you suspect your child is involved in bullying in any way (being bullied themselves or bullying others), it can be difficult to know what to do.
How can I tell if my child is being bullied? What can I do to support them? Should I approach the school? What if they are the bully?
Below we look at these questions to help if you’re worried about your child.
Signs your child may be being bullied
Bullying affects people in different ways, depending on the situation. Kids can be reluctant to talk about bullying, so as parents, it can be difficult to know if they are struggling. We have more detailed information on how to spot the signs of bullying on our dedicated page, but here is a quick round-up of behaviours to look out for:
- becoming withdrawn
- change in behaviour, becoming aggressive
- poor sleeping
- complaining of stomach aches or headaches
- reluctant to go to school
- change in performance at school
- easily upset or irritable at home
- spending much more or much less time online
- change in eating habits
- stealing money
How to help
If you do suspect your child is being bullied, there are several ways you can show your support. The most important thing is to be a port in the storm, offering reassurance and a listening ear.
- Your key focus should be on listening and providing reassurance that it is not their fault - tell them coming to you was the right thing to do.
- Look to establish the facts and if possible keep a diary of events to share with the school.
- Retaliation should be discouraged. Advise them to walk away and seek help instead.
- Talk to your child about what further actions they want to take, identify your options and work together to find a solution.
- Role-playing scenarios can help them feel prepared when they come into contact with a bully.
- Encourage them to try activities that will build self-confidence.
- If they aren’t comfortable talking to you, try not to take this to heart. Encourage them to talk to a teacher, a counsellor or another adult they trust.
- Speak to the school or the lead adult where the bullying is taking place, if your child is happy for you to do so.
If the bullying is taking place online, you may find our how to stay safe online page useful.
Speaking to the school
All schools are required to have some form of anti-bullying policy. If you suspect bllying is happening, ensure you have access to this to see how your child's school approaches the topic. If you decide the school needs to step in, try the following:
- Make an appointment, don’t turn up unexpected.
- Present them with the facts - dates of when incidents have taken place etc.
- Make it clear that you want to work together with the school to find a solution.
- Avoid accusing the school, they tend to be the last to find out about bullying.
- Arrange a follow-up meeting to review if further action needs to be taken.
What if your child is the bully?
Finding out that your child is involved in bullying someone is often a huge shock. Remaining calm and listening to the facts is key. When it comes to talking to your child about their behaviour, keep the following in mind:
- Ensure they know what they’re doing is wrong and unacceptable.
- Help them understand that no one has the right to pressure them into doing anything they don’t want to do (i.e. bullying others).
- Make sure their bullying isn’t as a result of them themselves being bullied - in our recent survey, 79% of people who admitted to bullying had been bullied themselves.
- Go through the school’s anti-bullying policy with your child.
- Try to find out if there’s anything else going on that may be causing the behaviour - stress, friendship problems, change in family situation or even a bereavement.
Dealing with your own feelings
Bullying affects everyone involved and that includes you. You may feel angry, helpless or even fearful. If you were bullied as a child, you may empathise but try not to let your own feelings get in the way of your child’s situation. Think about the way your feeling before you react.
There are plenty of resources for support, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kidscape's Parent Advice Line is open Monday and Tuesday 10am-5pm for non-emergency advice on dealing with bullying. Call them on 020 7823 5430 or visit https://kidscape.org.uk/parentsupport. Just remember, you are not alone and nor is your child - support is available wherever you are on your journey.