Helping your child with bullying
It's not easy when your child is going through a bullying situation, but you are not alone. We are here to help.
Here is some practical advice. You can also contact our Parent Advice Line if it would help to talk things through.
Signs that might mean your child is being bullied
Common signs include:
- Any change in behaviour (louder, quieter, angrier, sadder)
- Being scared to go to school or take part in their usual activities
- Unexplained illness like tummy bugs and headaches
- Disturbed sleep
- Distress after using phones or tablets
- Lost or stolen belongings
What to do if you spot these signs
If you notice a change in your child, create time and space to gently ask how things are going, what they are enjoying/not enjoying and what you can do to help.
It is horrible if you suspect your child is being bullied, but you will get through this with the right support. Stay calm and reassure your child that together you will sort this out.
Create space to talk
It is important to create time and space for your child to talk to you. Sometimes a direct question works, but other times it may be helpful to go for a walk, a drive or out for food together and gently ask how they are feeling about life and school. Listen carefully and watch their body language for signs that they might have more to share. Keep creating opportunities until they’re ready to talk.
Remember your child will want to protect you, so it may be that they are more willing to open up to other family and friends. This is very normal and it's worth thinking about who else they might be willing to speak to.
If your child tells you that they are being bullied, let them know this is not their fault, that they can get through this, and together you will sort it out.
Make a note of what has happened where, with who, for how long, and the impact it has had on your child. The Kidscape log and school contact record can help you and your child do this.
Ask your child what they need
Ask them how the bullying situation is making them feel, and what they most need from you and the people around them. It’s important your child feels in control of the situation. They may be worried about telling others (e.g. being called a snitch), so work out the best action together.
If the bullying is happening in school, it is vital that you let the staff team know what is happening and the impact it is having on your child. The focus should be on making sure the bullying stops and that your child gets the support they need. We have further advice on communicating with the school effectively.
Consider who else can help
Your child needs support at this time, so help them think about other people who can help them. This may be other children or teachers they like and trust. Encourage them to take part in activities that make them feel good about themselves and have friendships outside of school.
Talk to your GP
If the bullying has impacted on your child’s physical or mental health (e.g. they are very scared or anxious) talk to your GP. Your GP may make a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health services for support. You may also want to consider sourcing your own counselling support, and you can do this through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
Things to avoid
Dismissing their experience
Dismissing their experience as “just growing up” or telling them to just ignore it won’t make the bullying stop.
Telling your child to hit back
It is very common to hear parents say they tell their child to hit back if someone has hit them, but we would not give this advice to an adult who is hit in the street or in the workplace, so why do we expect children to have to physically defend themselves? Your child may get more hurt, and it also makes it hard for school staff to know who started the fight, so you may find that it’s your child who is punished.
It is natural to feel angry and upset if your child is being bullied, but taking this out on school staff or other parents won’t stop the bullying. Stay calm so that you can get the help you need for the bullying to stop.
Parent Advice Line
Guidance and support for parents and carers
Kidscape log and school contact record
The Kidscape log and school contact record is a simple way to promote open communication with the school and ensure that each bullying incident is recorded.