Bullying and being bullied
School age is an exciting time for children. It's a time when your child makes new friends, meets new people and becomes more independent. They also come across new rules, routines and experiences - so do you! But sometimes this new world takes getting used to. Worrying about this can affect your child's behaviour and wellbeing.
If your child, and you, are finding these changes difficult, that's OK. There is plenty of help, advice and guidance to support you and your child through this time.
Read time: 3 minutes
Finding out that your child is being bullied is every parent's nightmare. Learning that your child has been bullying someone else is just as upsetting. In either case, it can cause strong emotions. It can also lead you to question your own parenting.
Don't worry. If your child is affected by bullying it doesn't mean you're doing a bad job! Often, all you need to solve this is understanding, a level head and time to talk.
What is bullying?
Bullying is the deliberate and repeated act of hurting one person. It often happens in relationships where one person has more power. When this happens, it can be very scary and upsetting for the victim.
Physical violence is one clear example of bullying. But bullying can also be hard to recognise. In some cases, the victim may not even realise they are being bullied.
Forms of bullying include:
Verbal - name calling and teasing.
Physical - acts of violence and damaging belongings.
Indirect - such as spreading nasty rumours or leaving them out of group activities.
Cyberbullying - such as sending mean messages about another person online.
Manipulation - where one person controls or influences another without them realising it.
Why do children bully?
If you're worried that your parenting is to blame for your child's situation, stop! Children who bully do so for different reasons. While it can be a result of home life, it often stems from past trouble with other children or can be a cry for attention.
In some cases, they might be copying someone else, or being told to act in a certain way by their peers. Often, children who bully are facing problems themselves. When they are struggling to deal with these problems, sometimes they lash out at others.
Others lack social skills and won't know how to interact with other children. These children often struggle to tell the difference between playground banter and bullying.
Some children who bully will target others who they believe to be different. This could be because of the victim's
- social class
How does bullying affect children?
Children are often embarrassed to admit that they are being bullied. Others are too scared to say anything because they feel it will make things worse. The good news is there are many common signs that a child is being bullied. Spotting these signs is the first step to getting your child the right support.
Warning signs include:
- Being withdrawn
- Not wanting to go to school
- Poor results at school
- Losing interest in activities that they used to enjoy
- Often complaining of feeling unwell
- Bruises and/or torn clothing
- Changes in behaviour at home
- Self-harm, such as picking at skin
Is your child showing any of these signs? If so, don't panic – below we explain how you can sort out the situation while protecting your child.
Top tips for parents of children affected by bullying
Read time: 4 minutes
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, approach them calmly. Tell them that you will help them if they need you to. Let them know that you will listen to them, and that you won't do anything that could make things worse.
Sometimes it can take time to work out how to resolve a situation in which your child is being bullied. Perhaps you feel powerless and upset yourself and can't imagine there is a solution. It's important to let your child know that you are taking it seriously, and that you will find a way of it stopping. You could talk to your child's teacher, pastoral lead or head of year. You might ask "what needs to happen to make sure my child doesn't get bullied?"
Being bullied can have long term effects on self-esteem and mental health. So keep working away at it with the school until it is sorted out. Reach out to a parents helpline if you need support during this process. It is worth it.
If your child tells you they have been bullied, don't let your emotions get the better of you. The guidance below should help you keep a level head. And find the perfect resolution for your child, regardless of the situation.
If you find out your child is being bullied
- Remain calm and base any decisions on your child's well-being
- Make a note of what your child says has happened, when, and who was involved
- Avoid jumping to conclusions
- Avoid approaching the bully's parents – speak to the school and work with them to find a resolution
- Consider your child's feelings and keep them informed as you find a solution
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying
- Check your child's use of technology. And set suitable privacy settings on social media
- Encourage your child to be careful about who they share their contact details with
- Screenshot and save the bullying messages or posts
- Report bullying to your child's school
- Report anonymous bullies to social media site administrators
Helping your child cope with bullying
- Teach your child non-violent ways of dealing with bullies. This can include walking away, or calmly speaking up for themselves.
- Engage your child in activities outside of school (or where the bullying is taking place). This can help them rebuild their confidence.
- Teach your child to show self-confidence. For example, by walking upright and looking people in the eye.
If you find out your child has bullied someone else
If your child is bullying others, it's important to address it. Leaving it will cause upset for others. And it could make your child's relationships less satisfying as an adult. Again, reach out and find support from others.
- Speak to your child and try to understand why they have acted this way
- Ask them how they are feeling – are they struggling with something themselves?
- Explain to them why their behaviour is wrong
- Encourage them to consider how their bullying makes others feel
- Reach out and talk with your child's school. They can help your child find different ways of communicating with their peers. You could say something like this to your child's teacher, pastoral lead or head of year:
"What needs to happen to make sure my child is supported not to bully anymore?"
Change can happen. Perhaps your child is struggling with their learning. And bullying is the one area they are feeling some control in life. Perhaps they are upset or angry or bothered by something that is not yet understood. Perhaps they are not understanding the social cues between their peers. Addressing their learning needs, emotional needs or social needs may reduce the bullying.
Managing your own emotions
It's also important to consider the effects on you as a parent. When you find out that your child is affected by bullying it can be easy to feel guilty. Whatever you do, don't blame yourself. Your child's involvement in bullying is not a reflection of your parenting!
Remember that you are not alone. There are plenty of parents in a similar situation. Share your thoughts and feelings with family and friends. If necessary, seek peer support online or speak to an anti-bullying organisation. Most of all, remind yourself that you are doing a good job and that the bullying will be resolved. And look after yourself!
Information from external websites
Anti-bullying alliance have a reassuring page for children who are being bullied
Bullying UK has a number of helpful articles offering advice to parents on bullying
Childline has a good selection of information for you and your child on the different types of bullying and what to do
National Bullying Helpline has as section for your child to help them understand what bullying is and how to stop it. They also have a section for parents that offers help and advice on dealing with bullying.
NSPCC has a section on bullying and cyberbullying that explains what bullying is, how it can affect your child and how to deal with it.
Relate has a helpful section on what to do if your think your child is being bullied.
Safe Space Health UK is a website for young people aged 11 - 14 in Surrey. It offers helpful information about emotional health, lifestyle choices, relationships, keeping safe, growing up and being okay with being different.
SupportLine have information for children and parents on bullying
Barnardo's Family Space share useful ideas for understanding and responding to behaviour in 4-8 year olds and also for routines and behaviour for 8-12 year olds
Struggling and need to talk?
Action for Children offer 1:1 chat with a parenting coach (Mon - Fri). If they are closed you can leave a message and a parenting coach will get back to you within 3 working days.
Kidscape offer friendly, impartial, non-judgemental information, advice and support to parents, carers and family members who are concerned about their child or young person being bullied. Call the Parent Advice Line (PAL) on 020 7823 5430. Calls are charged at normal rates. You can also contact them via WhatsApp on 07496 682785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
SupportLine provides a confidential helpline offering emotional support to any individual on any issue, including bullying. It is open to any individual of any age. Call 01708 765200 or email email@example.com
For your child
Childline have a free and confidential helpline for children. You could encourage your child to call 0800 1111 if they need to speak to someone - open 7 days a week from 7.30am - 3.30am. Childline also have a 1-2-1 counsellor chat for children who don't want to speak on the phone
The National Bullying Helpline also has a free helpline for children who are being bullied. Your child can call 0300 3230169 if they need to speak to someone.
If your child is 11 or older you might want to tell them about the Child and Family Health Surrey text service called ChatHealth. It's a confidential school nurse messaging service for young people aged 11-19. Young people can contact their school nurse in confidence by text. The Chat Health text number is: 07507 329 951 (Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm).
All of the issues discussed are confidential unless a child's safety, or that of others, is at risk. The school nurses will always encourage young people to discuss issues with their parents or guardians.
Useful videos on dealing with bullying
The Anti-bullying Alliance share 3 top tips if you think someone is being bullied.
Family Lives has an informative video on bullying and school age children
The Families Under Pressure video collection offers a great series of short top tips videos on managing behaviour and help with negative emotions. Perfect for when your family leave you feeling frazzled!
Helpful tools and apps
Childline's For Me app is designed by children for children. They can get tips and advice on a whole range of issues and have access to the 1-2-1 chat. This means they have access to a counsellor whenever they need it. For Me is currently only available from Apple on iPhone 5 or later. But you can access the same information and services from the Childline Website.
If your child is experiencing stress because of bullying they could try Chill Panda. It's a free app designed to help them learn to relax and manage their worries.
Kooth is a free online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people aged 11 - 18. Accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop 365 days a year on Monday to Friday from 12pm–10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 6pm until 10pm.
Your child can sign up here
You might want to suggest your child tries the MeeTwo App. it is free, and allows peer to peer support for 11-25 year olds in a forum monitored by trained adults. If your 12 year old posts a question, only other 12 year olds will see the post and be able to respond. Adults monitor questions and answers and hand the question to a counsellor if they feel the child needs more than peer support.
The NSPCC has a great guide on positive parenting.
Surrey's Family Learning and Adult Learning teams have developed a family wellbeing resource, with lots of tips on looking after yourself and your family during these challenging times.
Young Minds has a useful guide for parents on spotting and stopping bullying and supporting your child.
Online parenting guides
Surrey residents get free access to an online guide that include top tips from childcare, education and NHS health experts
How to register
Registration is quick and easy. Go to the OurPlace website and use the access code 'ACORN' to get your free guide.
Access to the guide is unlimited with no expiry date, so you can return as and when you need and want to. Why not watch the Child and Family Health video to find out more.
Community support, courses and local help
Choose the area you live in for local services. Please note that due to coronavirus (Covid-19) very few community services are currently running.
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Date published: 03 Mar 2021