My child is being bullied

When your child is being bullied, it may be difficult to know how to support your child. 

Bullying can happen in person or online. It involves: 

  • A person or group intentionally hurting someone with words or actions – this can be multiple times or once, but has the potential to happen more than once. 
  • Someone having power over another person or group. 

Types of bullying

Types of bullying include:  

  • Physical: hitting, kicking, pushing. 
  • Verbal: name calling, teasing, threatening. 
  • Social: causing embarrassment, spreading rumours, encouraging exclusion from social groups. 
  • Financial: demanding money, taking possessions.
  • Cyberbullying: sending hurtful comments or messages, sharing embarrassing photos or videos online, creating hate sites about someone, prank calls and messages, group bullying or deliberately excluding someone online, anonymous messaging, encouraging someone to self-harm or attempt suicide. 

Other types of bullying may include racism, sexism, homophobia, sizeism, or picking on someone due to religious beliefs or disability. 

Understand why bullying happens

People often bully to feel like they have control and power. This can be because they feel powerless in another part of their life. They might be struggling with something, or may have been bullied themselves. This doesn’t make it OK to bully, but both the bully and the person who is being bullied will need some support.  

A child may become involved in bullying without thinking about the consequences. For example, by liking an abusive comment made by one person to another, or following a hate site.

Spot the signs

Signs that your child might be being bullied include:  

  • Acting differently or appearing anxious. 
  • Changes to eating and sleeping habits. 
  • Developing low self-esteem. 
  • Stopping the things they usually enjoy. 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends. 
  • Seeming moody or getting upset more easily. 
  • Avoiding certain situations like taking the bus to school. 
  • Avoiding being online or their phone. 
  • Having visible bruises or injuries. 
  • Self-harm. 
  • Developing suicidal thoughts and feelings. 

      Your child might not show all these signs at the same time, and these won’t always be signs that they are getting bullied. 

      Talk to your child

      If you suspect bullying, talk to your child. Ask them how you can support them.  

      If they’re reluctant to talk, try to find ways to speak about bullying in a more general way. For example, you might watch a situation on a TV show and ask your child what they think the person should have done or if they’ve ever seen anything similar. You could also speak about experiences that you or another family member had at that age.  

      If your child doesn’t want to talk at all but you’re still worried, see if there is someone else who might be able to support. This could be a counsellor, teacher, youth leader or another family member.    

      Make a safety plan

      It’s not always possible to avoid or stay away from bullies. But you can help your child prepare by creating a safety plan with them. Talk to them about where and when the incidents are most likely to happen. Look at ways they may be able to keep themselves safer. These include: 

      • Taking an alternative route to a destination. 
      • Making sure they have people with them that they trust at times they may be vulnerable, such as at break and lunch time. 
      • Staying in open spaces in clear view of trusted adults or other children.  

      Help them to understand where they should go, or who to talk to should they feel threatened. You can share this plan with the school and ask them to find extra solutions. 

      Block online bullying

      If bullying is happening online, show your child how to block contacts and report anything malicious or triggering to the platform or app. Always alert the school to online bullying.  

      Read our article on more ways you can help your child stay safe online 

      Tell the bully to stop

      Discuss ways to tell the bully to stop. Your child should only do this if they feel comfortable. If speaking up seems hard, they should walk away and stay safe.  

      Some schools have protocols they use, such as holding up their hand and saying, “Stop. I don’t like this.” Talk to the school about the methods they use and ask for any resources that may be helpful to share with your child. 

      Suggest writing a diary

      See if your child can keep a diary or a record of the bullying. Having a record can make it easier for others to understand what’s happening. It helps collect the evidence they might need to make it stop. It can be useful to include details such as:  

      • The time and place the bullying happened. 
      • A brief description of events.  
      • How it made them feel and other ways it may have affected them, such as physical pain or bruising. 
      • Who else was there at the time. 

        Educate yourself

        Be aware of the anti-bullying and behaviour policies at your child’s school. These may be available on your school’s website. If they’re not, ask the school office to email you a copy or print one off and give it to you.  

        You can also check the government website on how schools should deal with bullying. 

        Ask for school reports

        If you reported something to your child’s school, ask for the outcome of the school’s investigation. Request copies of incident reports. The school may not be able to provide names or details of consequences, but it’s good to keep a record of the outcome. 

        Check your child can ask for help

        Make sure your child knows they can ask for help. It’s important they tell someone they trust what’s happening. This is not grassing or telling tales. Help them identify who they can go to.  

        If bullying is happening at school or on the way to or from school, encourage your child to report every incident. If they feel unable to do this, alert the school as soon as they’ve told you. Tell your child you are planning to do this and let them know that it will help the school to investigate. 

        Get more support

        You can keep your child off school if you have concerns for your child’s mental or physical wellbeing, while you work with the school towards finding a solution. More support is available from the Anti-Bullying Alliance or the NSPCC. Kidscape also runs free workshops for young people affected by bullying.  

        Your child can get support online from:  

        • YoungMinds – information for young people on coping with bullying.  
        • Childline – 1:1 chat with a counsellor.  
        • The Mix – offers a forum, helpline, 1:1 chat and crisis messenger.  
        • National Bullying Helplinehelpline for children or parents.  
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        This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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