What Should I Do If My Child is Being Bullied?
If your child is subject to bullying, it can be a challenging situation to mediate. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your child is supported. Maintaining open dialogues with your child and their teacher is key. As well as equipping your child with the tools they need to build their confidence.
1 in every 4 young people in the UK have been victims of bullying in the past 12 months with 77% of those being bullied explaining that it negatively impacted their mental health. There may be signs that your child is being bullied, read our article about how to know if my child is being bullied here.
Here are 4 steps you can undertake if you think your child is being bullied:
1. Talk to Your Child
If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, the first thing to do is to talk to them. Be aware that they may clam up and refuse to talk to you if you “grill” them about who has been upsetting them. More subtle questions about how they feel about school might be more effective. These are the sort of questions you could ask:
- How many friends do you have at school?
- What would your friends at school say if I asked them to describe you?
- Do you enjoy lunchtime/playtime? What do you do out in the playground?
- Is there anything you don’t like about school?
The answers to these questions should give you an indication if there are any problems. Don’t get worked up if your child says someone is targeting them, as this may frighten your child and make them think they are in trouble. Stay calm and let them talk. Reassure them that any negative behaviour they might mention shouldn’t have happened and they didn’t deserve it. Write down the details, which will help if you need to talk to the school.
A child’s perspective
“My mother knew something was wrong. But she never actually asked me what was happening. She would just bombard me with “positivity” – going on about how lovely I was. Her heart was in the right place. But really all I needed her to do was listen and help me to find ways of dealing with the bullying”
2. Talk to The Teacher
The next step is to make an appointment with your child’s teacher to discuss the problem. Don’t be afraid of getting upset, teachers are used to upset parents and shouldn’t mind at all. Avoid accusing the teacher of not noticing or doing anything. Remember that bullies are often very clever at hiding their behaviour and it is impossible for a teacher to be aware of everything that is going on between every child in a class of 25 or more. A good teacher will be sympathetic and keen to help. If the teacher is dismissive then you should immediately ask for an appointment with the headteacher.
Here are some points you should bear in mind when talking to the teacher:
- It is important that the teacher knows exactly what has been taking place, so explain in as much detail as you can what has been happening between your child and the bully/bullies.
- Ask about the school’s policy on bullying. At this point, the teacher should be able to show you or refer you to a written policy on the school’s website.
- Ask how the school is going to put the bullying policy into action for your child. You should come away from the meeting with some practical solutions.
- The teacher may ask you to come back with your child so that you can all talk the situation through together.
- Remember to make a follow-up appointment for your to discuss the progress of the plan to tackle the bullying.
- Moreover, don’t speak directly to the other child or their parents. Emotions will be running high, and it won’t do any good.
One parent’s experience:
“I was so nervous about addressing the bullying with my daughter’s teacher, but she was brilliant. She used something called restorative practice. This involved her working with my daughter and the bully to get them to understand each other’s point of view. It was amazingly effective. My daughter and her bully were certainly never friends, but they had respect for each other. My daughter’s confidence increased enormously, and it was a very positive experience for her.”
3.Work With Your Child to Develop Confidence
Moving forward, it is worthwhile for you and your child to figure out how and why your child got locked into such a negative power relationship with a bully. Bullies may behave the same way with every child but will often target only those who give the “best” reaction – in other words, those who are most upset or most compliant. While you should never suggest to your child that they should change themselves in order to be less of a target, working with them to develop their self-esteem and confidence will have a positive impact on all aspects of their life – including their school relationships.
Some ways to develop confidence include:
- Role-playing: Act out a social situation with your child and give them the words they need to deal with that situation. Help them to handle the anxiety of a particular scenario – for instance, asking someone to play with them – by talking them through it step by step.
- Finding friends: Having the support of a kind peer will be a huge boost to your child. Help them to identify a youngster they like and support them in cultivating a friendship. Talk to the other child’s parent(s), perhaps during school drop-off/pick-up. Arrange for the children to spend time together, including at your home. It might seem forced at first, but most parents will be very welcoming.
- Sport: Encourage your child to do exercise of any kind – running, swimming or simply kicking a ball around – as this will develop a sense of wellbeing and improve their mental health.
- Drama/singing: Engaging in performing art can bring children out of their shells and give them a chance to express themselves in a safe environment.
- Things I like about me: This is a simple exercise that can be great for younger children. Ask your child to lie down on a large piece of paper, draw an outline around them and fill the space with positive statements about the child. Hang the completed picture on their wall so they can see it every day.
4. Moving Forward
Dealing with bullying and the effect it has on your child can be a long, stressful process. Keep talking to your child and to the school. Talk to the governors if the school doesn’t seem to be dealing with the problem. If you still don’t get a satisfactory response – and, above all, if the bullying continues – then it might be time to consider changing schools.
The NSPCC and the Anti-Bullying Alliance offer lots of useful resources and support about bullying. If your child is the one who has been accused of bullying, we also have some information to support you here.