This page provides information for parents and carers who may be worried or concerned that their child is being bullied.
What is bullying?
Bullying happens to lots of children and it is normal for parents and carers to be worried or concerned about this. It is a serious issue and can be a distressing experience for all concerned. The most important thing to remember is that the problem can be solved and you and your child don’t have to deal with it alone.
Why do people bully?
Bullies tend to pick on things that they know children and young people get upset about. Some examples are:
- The way a child looks.
- The way a child sounds or talks.
- Hair or skin colour.
- Having time off school for hospital appointments.
- Being popular or unpopular.
- How a child is doing at school.
- Being liked by teachers.
- Health problems.
How can I help my child if they are being bullied or are worried about being bullied?
Develop your child’s self-esteem
Self-esteem is the beliefs or feelings that we have about ourselves. A child’s self-esteem can change and grow as they do. A healthy self-esteem will help protect your child against challenges such as bullying. It is important to praise and compliment your child when appropriate to try to promote a healthy self-esteem. Some children who are bullied struggle to think of things that are good about themselves and reminding them regularly will help them understand that they have strengths and talents. You can help your child be confident in themselves by increasing their skills. A good example would be to encourage your child to invite friends over or for you to invite your friends and their children over to improve their social skills. This will help increase self-esteem.
Be aware of the signs of bullying
It is important to look out for signs of bullying as the earlier it is identified, the sooner it can be stopped. Children and young people will often find bullying difficult to talk about and may try to hide it or keep it to themselves. Look out for your child:
- Having mood changes.
- Behaving differently to normal.
- Changing their eating patterns – eating more or less than normal.
- Not wanting to try new things.
- Making excuses to not go to school or to miss things that they usually enjoy.
- Speaking negatively about themselves.
- Becoming worried when they receive a phone call or text message.
- Avoiding social media sites or being over interested in social media sites.
- Becoming irritable or easily upset.
- Being frightened of going out alone, for example, walking to school or playing with friends.
Talking to your child
Sometimes children find it hard to talk about what is happening to them. Try to find an opportunity to talk and encourage your child to express how they are feeling. It is important to do this regularly so your child knows that you have the time to listen to the good and bad things that have happened to them that day. You might feel upset or angry about what is happening to your child, however, make sure that you focus on offering support. Children can sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed and will worry that the bullying may get worse if the bully finds out that they have told someone. If your child tells you they are being bullied there are simple steps you should follow for how to respond:
- Praise your child for telling you about it and remind them that the bully is the one in the wrong and not them.
- Reassure your child that they were right to talk to you.
- Listen carefully, letting your child know that you believe them.
- Sort out the facts slowly and calmly with your child. Write them down if this will help.
- Try to involve them in finding a solution. This might help your child to feel empowered and strengthen their ability to cope if this happens again.
Involving your child’s school
It is important to talk to your child’s school when bullying is a problem. They may be unaware of what is going on and should be able to help. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy in place. Some schools now have ‘buddies’ or peer mentors, these are children who are trained to listen and help with these types of problems.
If your child’s school is not helpful, it is important to continue to seek help and not be put off. Remember to take action that reassures your child rather than embarrasses them. Keep calm but continue to speak up for your child until the matter has been resolved. It may be useful to speak to your child’s GP as they may be able to identify a service to refer your child to that can offer them support. In serious cases, it may be necessary to report bullying to the police especially if your child or another person is at risk of harm.
Help your child to stay safe online and on their mobile phone
- Think about if it is suitable for your child to be using certain websites or social media.
- Ensure that your child has appropriate privacy settings so that only friends and people they choose to are able to see their accounts.
- Encourage them to block people who make negative comments or spread rumours about them online.
- Help your child report negative comments and rumours to the site owners to have them removed.
- Teach your child the importance of keeping addresses and telephone numbers private and not sharing them online.
- If your child is receiving text messages or phone calls from bullies, it might help to change their SIM card number or have the numbers blocked by the network provider.
Teach them ways to deal with bullying
Children need to develop strategies that they can use on an everyday basis to deal with bullying. Some ways to deal with bullying that you could speak to your child about include:
- Ignore the bullies and walk away. The bullies cannot bully someone who does not stay around to listen. Your child may want to just shrug their shoulders or brush off the comments by saying something like ‘yeah whatever’ or ‘if you say so’. Bullies are often looking for an upset or scared reaction and so by ignoring them or pretending to not be bothered, your child will probably take away their incentive to bully.
- Try to stay calm and not retaliate. By being unkind, shouting or hitting back your child could make the situation worse or get themselves into trouble.
- Encourage your child to stay away from problem areas. For example, if your child spends lots of time at the park with friends but this is where they are targeted by the bullies, you might suggest that they go to a different park or do a different activity. Perhaps you could ask your child if they would prefer to have a friend to the house to play somewhere that they feel safe.
- Give the bully a compliment when they say something unkind. For example the bully might say that they don’t like your child’s hair. If your child responds by giving them a compliment e.g. ‘I saw you in the 5 a side football match earlier, you played really well’ or ‘I really like your school bag’ this is will confuse the bully and will make it harder for the bully to respond with an unkind comment.
- Stay with their friends if possible and appropriate. Bullies are more likely to target a child when they are on their own. If your child can stay with a friend or a group of friends it would be harder for the bully to target them and there would be more witnesses to report the incident if one does occur.
- If your child is being bullied about the same thing repeatedly, teach them responses they could use and let them practice at home. This means that they should be more likely to be able to come up with a good response in a situation when they are
being bullied. This will need your child to act as if they are confident and in control and they should only do it in their own words and if they feel comfortable doing so.
Where can I go for more support?
More support for parents
www.familylives.org.uk/ or call Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 – provides immediate help for parents 24 hours a day 7 days a week
More support for children and young people
Here is an example of a diary page you and your child could fill in together to keep a record of bullying incidents.
|Date/Time||Incident||People involved (witnesses and bullies)|
This information has been produced by the Department of Psychology in Healthcare. Clinical Psychologists are based at the RVI and Freeman Hospitals. If you have any further concerns about the issues discussed, please discuss these with your GP or medical team.