My child is being bullied - what can we do?
Finding out your child is being bullied can be very difficult and stressful. If your child has told you or someone else, they have taken a very brave step. Your child will need your emotional and practical support and will need to know you are a safe person to talk to. It is important to listen supportively at first, without offering opinions or judgement. When your child is ready, help to stop the bullying.
If your child is being bullied at school, their class teacher needs to be informed first. Every school must have a policy on bullying behaviour and you can ask for a copy of this. The teacher should take steps to address the bullies’ behaviour and protect your child. If you feel the issue is not being taken seriously you can ask to discuss it with the head of year, or the head teacher. If you still do not feel the situation is being dealt with adequately, contact the school governors and ask for their support. It is useful to put things in writing so there is a record of the incidents that have happened and what has been done to address the situation.
If the bullying is taking place out of school it may be harder to sort out, as you may not know the bullies or have any way of dealing with them.
It is important to think with your child about ways in which they can protect themselves away from school and keep themselves safe, for example by always going out with a friend, by changing their social activities or thinking of things to say to the bullies if they do meet.
For any child who is being bullied or is at risk of this, assertiveness techniques such as saying ‘no’ firmly can be very useful – you can practice these with your child. www.kidscape.org.uk has excellent information around helping your child to be assertive and understand their rights not to be bullied. It is important for your child that you praise them and give them positive encouragement, to help boost their self esteem.
If your child is being bullied by mobile phone or online, there are a number of very useful websites with advice on how to deal with cyber-bullying, see the organisations under ‘further information’. It is important to make sure your child understands the importance of keeping their details private, to keep themselves safe online.
Does my child need professional help?
Some children who have been bullied feel better immediately that it stops. Others go through a lot of feelings of anger, anxiety and upset afterwards, and it can be a while before they feel better and are able to move on. It is important to give them time to get over it and not to push them to talk about it, but also to be there if they want to discuss it.
Some children and young people are so badly affected by bullying that they need counselling or psychotherapy to help them get over it. If you think your child needs this kind of help, your GP should be able to make a referral, or phone YoungMinds Parents Helpline for advice.
My child is a bully – how can I stop them?
If you find out that your child is a bully it can be very shocking and can cause difficult feelings. However, it can often be the opportunity to help your child and change whatever is causing their behaviour.
You will need to talk to your child and to the school, if that is where it is happening. Try and work together with the school and resolve the issues in a positive way. It is important that the behaviour is taken seriously and that your child knows what will happen if it continues.
Your child may need some counselling or psychotherapy, as described above, to help understand their own behaviour and to help them deal with angry feelings.
What should schools be doing to prevent bullying?
Schools can do a lot to stop bullying happening and should have a clear, well publicised policy on bullying. When everyone involved in the school – teachers, pupils, parents and non-teaching staff – takes a strong and open stand against bullying, it is far less common.
It must be made clear that everyone should be respected – and pupils have a right not to be bullied. It is especially important that schools encourage pupils to accept that it is not wrong to ‘tell’. Children also need to be sure that something will be done to stop the bullying, otherwise they might not tell. A whole school policy on bullying is the best way to do this.
Schools can also help young people learn skills of assertiveness, mediation, conflict resolution and support. Befriending and ‘buddying’ schemes can also play a useful part.
The YoungMinds Parents' Helpline can help you with any concerns about bullying.
You can email the Parents Helpline by filling out the online contact form and selecting ‘Parents Helpline’.
Read a YoungMinds leaflet for parents about bullying (PDF).