What to do if your child is being bullied

Finding out your son or daughter is the target of bullying is never nice, but what can you actually do to help?

Here we detail how to spot if your child is being bullied, and also the things you can do to help them if they are…

Signs to look for if you suspect your child is being bullied

If you think your child may be being bullied, look out for the following signs:

  • They come home from school with cuts, bruises or torn clothing
  • They’re hungry, or have walked home, having had bus fare or lunch money stolen
  • They’re unusually moody or withdrawn, or are picking fights at home
  • Their work and grades at school start to slide
  • They’re reluctant to go to school, insist on being driven there, or pretend to be unwell
  • Their eating habits change, or they aren’t sleeping well

How to help your child if they’re being bullied

Encourage your child to get a friend or adult they can confide in, no matter what. Persuade them that asserting themselves through language is good. For instance, if a bully calls them names, encourage them to say something like: ‘I like being different’.

Using humour can help, too. Explain to them that saying something funny or plain outrageous throws bullies off balance. If they’re worried about being picked on outside, suggest they take another route through the playground/park to avoid a bully.

If the put-down is about clothing or a toy, tell them to agree with the bully as a way of diffusing the situation.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance offers the following advice:

  • Bullying is not your fault. It is always wrong and you do not have to put up with it
  • Let someone know what is happening as soon as possible. Talk things through with a friend, your family, or your teachers
  • Do not do or say anything in response to the bully. Stay calm and remove yourself from the situation wherever possible. If it is happening through your phone or the internet, keep a copy of the messages or images but do not reply or respond
  • Keep a note or a diary of what is happening
  • Be confident – you have done nothing to deserve this
  • Be assertive
  • You could say ‘This is not funny. This is bullying. This is wrong’
  • Think who can help you – young people or adults
  • Seek help from other young people e.g. school might have a peer mentor or buddy scheme
  • Say to someone ‘Please would you watch what is happening here’ and ask them to help you report the incident
  • Sometimes it can help to talk to someone outside of the situation

As mentioned above, some experts suggest showing your child how to face bullies with confidence. This can include teaching them to project a positive, assertive attitude and walk with confidence, while moving away from people who they think might cause trouble.

It can also be useful to role play situations to help your child know what to do if they are approached by a bully. Give them encouraging, positive feedback to help their confidence, and offer tips on how to ignore anyone being mean to them and who to tell if they do have a problem.

Want to know more? Sue Ormersher, Senior Press Officer from Family Lives gives her 10 best tips on how to beat the bullies.

If, after reading the below, you’re still worried about your child then don’t hesitate to contact Bullying UK, part of Family Lives. They provide support and advice for families experiencing all sorts of bullying problems.

Expert tips for beating bullying

1. Keep calm: your first reaction may be anger, but you can’t let your child see this. They need to be reassured and may be less likely to trust you again, if you get irate.

2. Talk to your child: let them know you’re there for them and that you love them, and don’t pressurise them into talking to you.

3. Suggest someone else they can talk to: not all kids want to talk to parents, so think of someone else they trust, such as a grandparent, other relative or close friend.

4. Reassure them: tell your child that it’s not their fault and they shouldn’t feel ashamed that they’re being targeted.

5. Raise their self-esteem: bullying hits a child’s self-confidence, so praise and encourage them at every possible opportunity.

Dealing with the source of the problem

1. Have a quiet chat to your child’s teacher – either a quick word on the phone or go in before school.

2. Many schools are very good when it comes to bullying and they’ll do a special assembly about it to highlight the problem.

3. If you don’t get anywhere with the school, ask to see a copy of their anti-bullying policy. All schools are legally required to have one.

4. Then ask to see the headteacher and keep a record of any meetings you have.

If you’re still not happy, try contacting the Chairman of Governors or your Local Educational Authority.

5. Make a list of all the questions you want to ask and take someone along with you, so you don’t miss anything that they may say.

If you’ve got a top tip for other parents whose children are being bullied, to help them deal with it, please let us know in the comments below.