No parent likes to think that their child is being bullied, or that their child is the bully. However, more than half of all children are involved, either as the perpetrator, victim or witness so there is a good chance that this is something you will have to deal with as a parent. Regardless of their involvement, bullying in all it’s forms can have a big impact on children’s mental health.
Some of the signs that your child could be being bullied:
- becoming withdrawn – not talking, or spending more time alone
- changes in behaviour e.g. becoming aggressive
- worrying about going to school
- not sleeping well
- complaining of feeling unwell
- broken or missing possessions
These are just some of the signs but they could also be signs of something else that’s going on so it’s important to take into account any changes that may be going on in their life and if you are unsure seek support.
Tips on what to do if your child is being bullied
It is difficult to learn that your child is being bullied. Here are some top tips to help you deal with the situation:
- Listen to your child without getting angry or upset.
- Set aside your feelings and listen to what your child is telling you.
- Try not to dominate the conversation with your thoughts about what is happening or what you want to do, instead ask your child what they would like you to do to support them with this issue. If they feel they have some control over what happens next they are less likely to become more stressed and upset than they already are.
- Reassure your child it’s not their fault.
- Talk to your child about what exactly is happening and where it is happening and discuss how they can appear more confident – even if they don’t feel it or ensure they are never left in a situation on their own.
- It is common that bullies say and do things to cause a reaction so if you can encourage your child not to react to situations or appear not to care then it may be that the bully will stop as he/she is getting no satisfaction from their taunts etc.
Try to avoid:
- Charging off demanding to see the head teacher, the bully or the bully’s parents. This is usually the reaction children dread and may cause the situation to get worse.
- Never encourage your child to hit or shout names back as this will not solve the problem and potentially only make the situation more inflamed.
- Don’t make light of the situation as your child has had to find the courage to tell you how someone else’s behaviour is making them feel and being told to ignore it makes it appear that this behaviour is normal and acceptable.
If bullying is happening in school…
Make sure you get support from the school and inform them. All schools are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy, however before you go into see the school:
- List all the information about what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your child did that may have provoked the incident, whether it was a one-off or series of events.
- Make an appointment with the class teacher or head of year.
- Aim to work together with the school and make it clear that you are seeking the school’s help in finding a solution.
- Avoid accusing the school: Remember that teachers are usually the last to find out that bullying is happening at school. The sequence is “friends first, then parents, lastly schools”.
- Be patient: Allow the school time to deal with the problem but stay in touch with them and arrange a follow up meeting to see how the situation is being resolved.
What to do if things don’t improve
- You and your child should continue to note incidents down and include dates, times, what happened, who did it and who saw it. Also include how the incidents have affected on your child and whether your child told anyone at the time of the incident.
- Continue to inform the school each time incidents occur and note down their responses and actions taken.
- If your child is hurt, take photographs and see your doctor (and the police if the assault is serious).