Bullying - advice for parents

Written by Kate Norris
Kate Norris
Counselling Directory Content Team

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.

On this page, we discuss signs that your child might be experiencing bullying, steps to take if your child is engaging in bullying behaviour, and guidance on seeking support.  

Signs your child may be being bullied

Bullying affects children 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.

Behaviours to look out for:

  • becoming withdrawn
  • change in behaviour, such as 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

If you're worried about your child, you can find more information about spotting the signs of bullying on our dedicated fact-sheet.

How to help

Your key focus should be on listening and providing reassurance that it is not your child’s fault. By being approachable and supportive, you can show support.

  • 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.

Speaking to the school

If you suspect bullying is happening, ensure you have access to the school’s anti-bullying policy 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 unexpectedly.
  • Present them with the facts - such as dates of when incidents have taken place.
  • 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.

If you're concerned about bullying or notice that people are targeting your child, you can inform the school. Please don't do this behind their back. Talk to them about how the escalation means getting extra help. Consider gathering a team of you, your child, and the school to find solutions. Working collaboratively with your child and the school is the best strategy.

- Counsellor Jennifer Warwick (MSc Psych, BACP Registered) in 'Mean girls: Supporting your teen through friendship struggles'.

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, ensure they know that it’s unacceptable. Work through the school’s anti-bullying policy and try to determine if there’s anything else going on that may be causing their behaviour; stress, friendship problems, change in the family situation or even a bereavement.

If you're concerned your child may be exhibiting bullying behaviours, you can find more information and advice in our article 'Is your child a cyberbully?

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 they’re feeling before you react.

As a parent, is it important to be able to recognise your own 'stuff'. So have a good look and decide what to do with it, before deciding how to support your child with their own challenges. A parent who was bullied at school and has not fully processed the impact will respond very differently to a parent who has not had this experience when helping their child navigate social issues. 

Counsellor Annabelle Hird (MBACP) in 'Parenting: Skeletons in the wardrobe'.

How counselling can help

Counselling can offer support for a child experiencing bullying by providing a safe space to explore emotions and develop coping strategies. Similarly, parents can seek support through counselling to understand the situation better, learn effective ways to support their child and navigate the emotional challenges of bullying. Search for a counsellor near you and start a conversation today.

Further support 

There are various resources available to support both children coping with bullying and parents seeking support, which you might find beneficial.

  • YoungMinds provides information and support for children and young people, parents and carers.
  • If you want to talk and have someone listen, you can contact the Samaritans 24/7 on 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Kidscape's Parent Advice Line is open Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5pm for non-emergency advice on dealing with bullying.
  • You can also get in touch with the Family Lives team for emotional support.
Search for a counsellor

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals