What can I do if my child is being bullied?
It’s not easy to hear that your child is experiencing bullying behaviour and of course you will want to do all you can to help. Remember that your child and you will get through this with the right action and support and remember to stay calm. Young people often feel that they need to deal with bullying behaviour alone and your child may worry that telling you will make you angry or upset. It’s important that you have the tools you need to keep your child safe, happy and free from bullying behaviour.
We’ve provided some advice for what you can do to help your child.
We’ll start with a definition, as it’s important to identify if something is a one-off incident or relational conflict – a clear definition can help with this. Whilst one-offs can still be serious, it’s important to identify bullying behaviour correctly.
The Diana Award defines bullying behaviour as
“repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe”.
It must be both repeated (more than once) and intended (done on purpose) for something to be considered bullying behaviour.
Types of bullying behaviour
Verbal - the repeated, negative use of speech, sign language, or verbal gestures to intentionally hurt others e.g. using hurtful words, discriminatory or offensive language, swear words.
Indirect - the repeated, negative use of actions, which are neither physical nor verbal, to intentionally hurt others e.g. spreading rumours, purposefully excluding another person, damaging or stealing someone’s property and cyberbullying.
Physical - the repeated, negative use of body-contact to intentionally hurt others e.g. kicking, punching, slapping, inappropriate touching, and spitting.
Cyberbullying - a type of indirect bullying behaviour, the repeated negative use of technology to intentionally hurt others e.g. posting unwanted pictures or messages, accessing another person’s account without permission, creating fake accounts to impersonate or harass someone and sharing other people’s private information online.
We spoke to Kat Fuller, Parent Support Adviser at the charity Kidscape. Kidscape works to tackle bullying behaviour by providing advice, support and training to children affected by bullying behaviour by working with families and directly with young people and professionals.
We asked her for her top tips when it comes to supporting your child:
Listen to your child's experience and allow them to 'tell their story'. Younger children may express themselves through play or drawing. Remind them that your job as their parent is to keep them safe and this may involve speaking to the school. Ensure that you work with them to come up with a plan of action that they feel a part of.
A good first step is to contact their school and arrange a meeting with your child’s form tutor, Pastoral Care or Head of Year.
2_Keep a record
Start a log of incidents but try not to get bogged down. Instead, focus on the impact on your child and how those around can help them to feel happier and safer. Kidscape has a sample log sheet here, as does The Diana Award here.
Gather the relevant school policies such as the school’s Anti-Bullying policy. This will outline the reporting procedures and how your child’s school prevents and tackles all forms of bullying behaviour. Schools have a legal duty to ensure that bullying behaviour is tackled and that young people are safe from harm. If the anti-bullying policy isn’t available on their website, you can request that you be sent a copy. A school’s legal duties in England can be found in the Department for Education’s Preventing and Tackling Bullying and Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance. If you’re in Wales, this is outlined in Rights, respect, equality: Statutory guidance for governing bodies of maintained schools.
4_Making contact with school
A good first step is to contact the school and arrange a meeting with your child’s class teacher in a Primary School or Form Tutor, Pastoral Lead or Head of Year in Secondary School. Explain to them that you wish to work together to ensure that the bullying behaviour stops and that your child feels supported. Ask for a written record of the meeting and the agreed action plan. Agree timescales for review.
5_Take a holistic approach
Whatever action you take, the bullying behaviour may not stop immediately. In the meantime, plan out with your child the support they may need. Some children may benefit from extra-curricular activities such as sport, drama or music to boost their self-esteem. If the bullying behaviour has impacted on your child's mental health, don't be afraid to speak to your GP or look for an online or local face-to-face youth counselling service.
6_Look after yoursel
As a parent/carer, it can feel devastating to find out that your child is being harmed by others and can lead to mixed feelings including anger, sadness and guilt. Try to find someone that you can speak to about the emotional impact on your family. Kidscape have a Parent Advice Line if you need to talk to someone outside your immediate network.
Thanks, Kat, for this fantastic advice!
If you want to find out more about the work that Kidscape do, visit their webpage.
And just a few notes from us:
If the bullying behaviour has taken place online, check out our cyberbullying resource here. Headteachers do have the power to discipline behaviour that has happened outside of school and affects their pupils. Schools have a duty of care towards young people regardless of where and when the bullying behaviour has taken place.
Does your child’s school have Anti-Bullying Ambassadors trained by The Diana Award?
These are young people who are trained by us to tackle the attitudes, behaviour and culture surrounding bullying behaviour through peer-led campaigns.
Find more information about our free training and access our free resources.