Bullying: advice for parents

Bullying is a big concern for many parents and carers. Find out what you can do to help your child.

Knowing or suspecting that your child is being bullied can be very upsetting, but there's lots you can do to help tackle the problem.

Bullying is one of the biggest concerns for parents, according to Family Lives, a support organisation for parents.

If you find out or suspect your child is being bullied, there are things you can do to resolve the problem.

And you don't have to find all the answers on your own. There are a number of organisations, including Family Lives, that can give you help and advice – see Who can help with bullying?.

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

Sometimes children don't talk to their parents or carers about bullying because they don't want to upset them, or they think it will make the problem worse.

But if you suspect your child is being bullied, there are signs to look out for, according to the NSPCC. These include:

  • coming home with damaged or missing clothes, without money they should have, or with scratches and bruises
  • having trouble with homework for no apparent reason
  • using a different route between home and school
  • feeling irritable, easily upset or particularly emotional

Read more about spotting the signs of bullying on the NSPCC website.

Signs of cyberbullying include:

  • being withdrawn or upset after texting or being online
  • being unwilling to talk about what they're doing online or on their phone
  • spending much more or much less time texting or online
  • many new phone numbers, texts or email addresses show up on their phone, laptop or tablet

Find out more about the signs of cyberbullying (PDF, 185kb).

How to help your child if they are being bullied

If a child tells you they're being bullied, the first thing to do is listen. The NSPCC advises parents and carers to let children tell their story in their own words, and not to dismiss their experience as "just a part of growing up".

The NSPCC advises that you suggest your child keeps a diary of bullying incidents. It will help to have concrete facts to show the school, sports coach or club leader. The next step is to talk to the school or adult in charge of your child's club.

Talking to the school about bullying

To stop the bullying, it's essential for you or your child, or both of you, to talk to the school.

Think about who would be the best person to approach first. Discuss this with your child as there may be a particular teacher your child feels more at ease with.

Schools should do everything they can to prevent all kinds of bullying. The law says every school must have an anti-bullying policy, and you have the right to ask how your child's school deals with bullying.

Some schools run schemes such as peer mentoring, where certain children are trained to listen and help with problems.

Teachers can discipline children for bullying that happens off school premises. That could be on the bus, in the street or at the shops.

Read more information from Bullying UK on contacting your child's school about bullying.

Who can help with bullying?

All the organisations listed below provide support and information to parents.

Family Lives

Family Lives is a charity that runs a free and confidential 24-hour helpline for parents. Call 0808 800 2222 to speak about any parenting issue, including bullying.

Bullying UK

The Bullying UK website, which is part of Family Lives, has a dedicated area for parents.

Kidscape

Kidscape is an anti-bullying charity that runs assertiveness training courses for young people who've been bullied. There's extensive information for parents and carers on its website.

NSPCC

The NSPCC website has information for parents on bullying and cyberbullying.

Childnet International

Childnet International is a charity promoting the safe use of the internet by children. Its website has a wealth of detail, including information about bullying for parents and carers.

Contact a Family

Contact a Family provides advice, information and support to the parents of all disabled children throughout the UK. It also runs a free helpline (0808 808 3555).

Help from health services

Children can feel the impact of bullying even once it's ended. If they continue to feel anxious or low and it's stopping them getting on with day-to-day life, it may be time to ask for further help. You can speak to your GP or the school nurse about the problem.

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